Retired Catholic priest on Rochdale child sex assaults trial

A retired priest sexually abused nine young girls and a boy over the course of four decades, a court has heard.

Father Mortimer Stanley, 84, denies 19 counts of indecent assault said to have been committed between 1977 and 2002.

He allegedly targeted the complainants, who were aged under 11, at St Vincent de Paul RC Church in Norden, Rochdale.

Manchester Minshull Street Court was told the schoolchildren did not complain at the time because of the "very high regard" he was held in.

The priest called the alleged victims his "special girls" and would sit them on his knee and indecently assault them in his presbytery, the court heard.

They were either pupils at St Vincent's RC Primary School or members of the parish.

'Godlike figure'

Fr Stanley moved into the Norden presbytery in 1977 when he was sent to the Salford Diocese and also became a school governor.

Limerick-born Father Stanley retired in 2002 and returned to the Republic of Ireland shortly after the mother of one of the female complainants informed teaching staff that he had inappropriately kissed her daughter.

Fr Stanley now lives in Ballybunion, County Kerry.

The court was also told the mother wrote to Fr Stanley before he left the UK to raise her concerns, and he replied that he was "sorry for the upset he had caused".

Opening the prosecution, Andrew Mackintosh said: "He was described by one of his pupils as 'a godlike figure, a celebrity in the playground'.

"Someone who children would run to and give a hug.

"It is the Crown's case that his reputation and his relationship with those children masked what was abuse."

The trial continues.

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