AN elderly priest was yesterday found not guilty by a jury of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl four years ago.
Father Chris Conroy, of Rocky Road, Wicklow, had denied the sexual assault charges. After deliberating for nearly three hours, the jury of four women and eight men returned the not guilty verdict.
Father Conroy, who spent most of his life in Peru and returned to Ireland eight years ago, was hugged by well-wishers after he was discharged by Judge Raymond Groarke.
The 72-year-old priest would not comment as he left Wicklow Circuit Court.
During the three-day trial, the girl, who is now 18, had claimed that she was sexually assaulted in the priest's Wicklow home and in a car on the N11 between May 1 and September 30, 2000.
She had alleged that the priest had massaged her buttock and touched her breasts in his home and that he had put his hand on her crotch as they returned from a shopping trip in his car.
In a seven-hour interview with gardai, the priest said he definitely did not touch the girl's crotch. Referring to the other allegation, he told gardai he practised a form of meditation to take away stress after the girl had come to him in an agitated state. He denied he touched the girl improperly.
Earlier, defence counsel Richard Keane SC asked the jury not to allow any feelings of revulsion for the Church affect their decision.
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