'Abuse' jury fails to reach verdict

Published Tuesday, 02 October 2012
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A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a young girl nearly 30 years ago.

'Abuse' jury fails to reach verdict
The judge discharged the jury on Tuesday. (© UTV)

Jurors returned to Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday after over five hours of deliberations to say they couldn't agree on a verdict in the trial of Father Peter Donnelly and the foreman said there was no prospect of them doing so.

Donnelly, from Drumaroad Hill in Castlewellan, had denied six counts of indecent assault and one of gross indecency against the girl.

She was aged between 10 and 14 at the time of the alleged offences between 31 July, 1983 and 1 August, 1987.

Donnelly, who's 69, was curate of St Matthew's Church in east Belfast during that period.

It is alleged the attacks occurred in the parochial house.

On Tuesday morning after the jury of six men and six women had been out for three hours, Judge Gordon Kerr QC called them back into the court and told them he would accept a unanimous verdict.

But in the afternoon, the foreman of the jury sent him a note saying there was stalemate among them and the judge discharged them.

Judge Kerr has listed a new hearing for Friday when lawyers for the Public Prosecution Service will outline how they plan to proceed with the case.

The alleged victim, who is now 40, told the trial via a video link that she didn't go to police sooner with her allegations because she was afraid and because she blamed herself.

"But Father Donnelly knows he done it," she said.

Donnelly went into the witness box to deny all the allegations.

"That's not the way I have lived my life. I go around trying to be a witness for Christ" he said.

© UTV News
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