August 2018

Former Catholic priest groomed teenage girl before subjecting her to campaign of indecent assault

A former Catholic priest in Wythenshawe has been jailed for grooming a teenage girl before subjecting her to a campaign of indecent assault.

Vincent Whelan, 71, used his position at St Peter’s Catholic Church to sexually exploit the girl, who was under 16, in the 1980s.

The parish priest, who now lives in Wirral, Merseyside, was aged 41 when he began grooming the ‘vulnerable’ teenager after befriending her family.

He plied the girl with alcohol and complimented her appearance in order to gain her trust, before sexually abusing her.

Whelan has now been jailed for nine months following a Manchester Crown Court trial.

A jury found him guilty of three counts of indecent assault.

The court heard that Whelan began ‘subtly’ grooming the teenager before his actions became more sinister.

On one occasion, he ‘ambushed’ the girl and forced himself upon her, before kissing her on the lips.

The victim, who previously gave evidence to the court, said Whelan’s inappropriate behaviour continued on a regular basis for a year.

The court heard he convinced his victim not to tell anyone about the abuse by claiming he would lose his job if people found out.

Whelan’s actions were only bought to light three decades later when the victim reported him to police in 2017.

Judge Patrick Field QC condemned his behaviour as an ‘unacceptable abuse of trust’.

He said: “These offences were committed against a [teenage] victim. A child.

“Whilst a parish priest, you ambushed her and forced yourself upon her, kissing her on the mouth.

“She recalled your teeth clattering with hers and the horror she experienced at the time.

“I have no doubt this was a shocking experience for a young child and this will have been seated upon her memory.

“Given your position of trust as parish priest, your actions towards her was an unacceptable abuse of that trust.

“It was your good character that enabled you into the complainant’s life and allowed you to abuse her.

“I conclude that your actions can only be justified by an immediate deprivation of your liberty.”

Whelan, of Overchurch Road, Wirral, will serve half his sentence in custody before being considered for parol.