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Jury deliberations took less than two hours
The Wicklow People, 23 December 2004

A jury of eight men and four women found former Missionary Fr. Chris Conroy, of 10 Rocky Road, Wicklow not guilty of two separate charges of sexual assault on the teenager at an address in the town on dates between May and September, 2000.

Day Three - The Verdict
Judge Ray Groarke thanked the jury for their care and attention in what he described as a 'very difficult case'.

It took the jury almost two hours to deliver their unanimous verdict on two separate charges of sexual assault, both of which Fr. Conroy had pleaded not guilty to.

The complainant was not in court to hear the verdict.

In his closing speech to the jury, prosecuting barrister Paul Murray BL had accused the former Missionary, who has written best-selling books about his years of work with the Inca people of Peru, of 'grooming' the teenager for a sexual relationship.

But defence counsel Richard Keane S.C. pointed out that in a lifetime of working with young people, Fr. Conroy had never before been the subject of any allegations of abuse.

'If he was a paedophile - and that's what they're saying he is - they can't help themselves. They have to have sexual contact with children,' he said.

Judge Ray Groarke told the jury before they retired to consider their verdict that they were entitled to bring in a verdict of guilty or not guilty on either or both of the separate charges.

He reminded the jury that a person under the age of 15 cannot consent to a sexual relationship.

They were also directed to consider the nature of the relationship between the alleged victim, her family and Fr. Conroy.

'There are a number of different matters in this mosiac that you have to look at,' said Judge Groarke.

'On the one hand it is open to me to accept that the accused was open, priestly, pastoral, helpful, caring, perhaps lonely, generous with his time and generous with his money.

'But the prosecution says something far more sinister was involved here that he was grooming this young girl potentially to assault her.

'You have to consider what kind of 14-year-old you were dealing with. Was she headstrong, precocious, imaginative, had a capacity to be devious - this is on her own account.

'Was she vulnerable, an immature person, albeit sexually advanced ... she said she was curious about sexual matters.

'What was she like at 14?' he asked.

The jury considered all these matters during the two hours it took to reach their verdict, which was a unanimous result