Priest accused of abusing girl in the 1980s

A Catholic priest went on trial on Monday accused of sexually abusing a young girl almost 30 years ago.

Belfast Crown Court heard claims that the alleged victim was abused by 69-year-old Peter Donnelly at the parochial house of St Matthew's Church, Belfast.

The priest, from Drumaroad Hill in Castlewellan, was a curate at the time.

He denies six counts of indecent assault and one of gross indecency between 31 July 1983 and 1 August 1987.

Opening the case against him prosecuting lawyer Kate McKay warned the jury that although such offences "may raise the hackles" of people, they had to set aside any feelings of sympathy or prejudice in deciding the case.

She told them how the offences came to light in September 2010 when the now 40-year-old woman reported to police how she was abused from the ages of around 10 until she was around 14-years-old.

Arrested and interviewed Donnelly claimed he could not remember the girl or her family and "certainly denied that he had ever, in anyway abused" his alleged victim.

Ms McKay told the jury that while consent would not be an issue in the case given the alleged victim's age at the time, she added that if they were satisfied the touching had indeed happened, it could not be anything other than indecent assault.

The trial continues.

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