By Chris Moore
Fr James Donaghy stood trial in Belfast – this time with three survivors of his abuses giving evidence against him in court.
The new trial under Judge Patrick Lynch began on November 16 2011.
Fifty-three-year-old Fr Donaghy faced a total of 26 sex abuse charges and one of common assault.
He was cleared of the common assault charge and two charges of sex abuse were left on the books as the jury could not decide on them.
Donaghy’s youngest victim was a 14-year-old altar boy and the court heard how the priest regularly sexually assaulted the boy over a number of years.
During the trial survivors of Fr Donaghy’s sexual predilections were asked why – as adults – they had continued to expose themselves to risk by spending time with Fr Donaghy.
Judge Lynch said the priest’s behaviour in the witness box provided the answer.
Judge Lynch continued: “Rarely does the court see a witness, particularly a defendant, so composed in the box, so confident and able to answer questions with impressive precision and clarity.”
He noted that the jury had rejected Fr Donaghy’s pleas of innocence. The judge said: “What they saw in you was a highly intelligent individual who attempted to influence the court with a combination of humour and charm.”
Retired Bishop Patrick Walsh was not called to court as a witness.
At the conclusion of the trial, The Detail requested the transcripts for the two crucial days of January 28 and 31 when Judge Loughran and the prosecution clashed over her friendship with Bishop Walsh.
It was in December last year that we first requested the audio recordings of the two days in January 2011 – the provision of audio recordings is the preferred method of providing a record of court proceedings when the judiciary allows it; parties are prohibited from broadcasting the recording – they can only use it to make their own transcript.
At the time of our request, Fr Donaghy had been convicted but was awaiting sentencing. We were told we could not have the audio recordings until the judge had completed his sentencing.
That occurred in February. We applied again and were initially told that because of the laws protecting the names of children in sex cases, we could not have the audio recordings.
Instead, we were informed we would have to wait to receive written transcripts with the names redacted. We were told it would cost up to £420 for the transcripts.
Eventually after months of correspondence we were sent the transcription of the first day we requested on May 21 with the second day’s transcription arriving on May 25. The fee for the transcripts was just under £120.