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Fr Duane Tells Court Alleged Assault Never Happened

Woman says she was afraid to tell her parents about alleged assault

The Corkman, 19 May 2011

THE woman who brought the complaint of sexual assault against Fr Dan Duane remained in the court for several minutes after Judge Sean O'Donnabhain directed the jury to acquit the elderly cleric of indecently assaulting her.

It was as if she was still trying to take in what had happened and afterwards she spoke for a brief period to Det Garda Colman Murphy who had investigated her complaint, she left the courthouse, too upset to speak.

During the trial, the woman had told how she had first met Fr Duane at a retreat at her school where she chatted to him in the religion room and spoke about her Intermediate Certificate and a family problem and he invited her to call to his house if she ever wanted a chat.

She said that she decided to take him up on his invitation some days later and called to his house in Bellevue without making any appointment. He answered the door and invited her into the sitting room where they began chatting about the family problem she had.

She became upset and he offered to get her a cup of tea or glass of water and when he returned, he sat down on the three seater couch but moved closer to her and told her that things were going to be okay and he would comfort her.

"He put his right hand over my left shoulder and leaned over and kissed me on the lips and he fondled my breasts. It went on for maybe a minute — my initial reaction was just absolute shock, then a slight freeze and then I told him to 'f*** off' and I just went towards the door," she said.

The woman said that she was afraid to tell her parents as she didn't think that they would believe her while she was also fearful because she was supposed to be staying on at school for extra study at the time and her father would be angry over her using bad language to a priest.

"My father would have killed me. I don't think he would have believed me, partly that I had cursed at a priest. In my house we did not do it and certainly did not curse at a priest," said the woman.

Some months later she told a friend that Fr Duane kissed her and some years later she told the same woman that he had fondled her breasts but the court heard that that friend had no recollection of the woman ever telling anything about the incident.

The woman confirmed she had recently instructed solicitors to send a letter seeking damages from Fr Dan Duane and the Diocese of Cloyne but she strongly rejected a suggestion by Fr Duane's counsel, Jim O'Mahony SC that she had invented the complaint for monetary gain.

She told Mr O'Mahony that she wasn't 100 per cent certain when the incident happened but it was around the time that she was doing her Intermediate Certificate but she couldn't be sure if it was before or after the examination. She would have been 15 or 16 at the time, she said.

Fr Duane denied he ever indecently assaulted the girl and said he had no recollection of ever meeting her at a retreat. He said he didn't give any retreats at any girls' schools at the time as he was working as a career guidance teacher at St Colman's College in Fermoy at the time.

The woman had claimed that she told him to 'f*** off' after the alleged incident but bad language like that would have registered in his mind and no such incident ever happened, he told the court.

Occasionally groups of girls would call to the house but that was to see another priest with whom he shared the house as that priest was working as a chaplin in a girls' school. However, they never encouraged girls to call on their own, he said.

Cross-examined by prosecution barrister, Don McCarthy BL as to how he knew some of these girls by name, he said it was because he was introduced to them by the other priest.

He said he didn't recall the woman's name and he did not recognise her in court but he did know her husband who was always friendly towards him over the years and he never got any sense of any coldness towards him, said Fr Duane.