March 2005

Priest gets 18 months

A paedophile priest was this afternoon jailed for 18 months after admitting sexually abusing a 13-year-old Teesside boy 30 years ago.

Judge Peter Armstrong passed sentence after hearing how 55-year-old Roman Catholic priest Father Michael Dunn subjected the schoolboy to a 15-month catalogue of abuse while he was a priest at Christ the King Church in Thornaby.

 Dunn pleaded guilty at Teesside Magistrates Court inJanuary to two specimen charges of gross indecency and one of indecent assault on the child between 1975 and 1976. He was sentenced to 18 months on each charge to run concurrently.

Teesside Crown Court today heard how the victim’s deeply-religious family was befriended by Dunn when he came to work in the parish in 1975.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Dunn, 55, based at Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Thornaby, abused his young victim in the church presbytery, at school, his family home and at a religious shrine in Walsingham, Norfolk.

Father Dunn even used his own parents’ home in Hull to prey on the boy. The clergyman’s victim was left traumatised, only now able to confront the demons which have tortured him for the last 30 years.

The abuse progressed and continued until December 1976 when the victim’s family eventually moved.

Prosecutor Yvonne Taylor said that Dunn had told his victim he “loved him”.

Stockton police’s child protection unit launched their investigation into Dunn after the victim contacted them last October.

They interviewed the now 43-year-old married dad who told them how his life had been traumatised by the sickening abuse he suffered.

Dunn, who left Thornaby in 1978, belongs to the Diocese of Middlesbrough and since the charges were made has been on “administrative leave” from his post at St Francis of Assisi Church in Hull, which he has held since 1994.

Simon Hickey, defending, said Dunn was ashamed and remorseful about what he had done and was “frightened”.

He also cited more than 50 character references, from teachers, magistrates and parishioners, which praised Dunn’s church work in Hull.

John Nicholson, a Hull magistrate, testified how Dunn was the most caring and reliable person he had ever met and said he and his children supported Dunn despite his admission.