Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Priest arrested over abuse claim

Fr Paul Symonds
Fr Paul Symonds was relieved of public ministry during the inquiry

A Catholic priest has been arrested on suspicion of child abuse.

The accusation against Father Paul Symonds, a curate in the parish of Kirkinriola, Ballymena, dates back to the 1970s when he worked in England.

The 65-year-old was arrested by the Metropolitan Police on Monday on suspicion of indecent assault.

Fr Symonds was given bail and will return to a London police station in February. He has been relieved of public ministry, pending the outcome.

The allegation relates to a time when he was working in Lancashire, but the Metropolitan Police are involved as it's understood the alleged victim now lives in London.

Cross-community work

Fr Symonds worked during the 1970s at the Catholic boarding school Stonyhurst College near Clitheroe, before moving to Brussels for a job with the Jesuits.

After that, he came to Northern Ireland, first as a priest in Drumbo before moving to Ballymena.

He was prominent in efforts to resolve sectarian problems in the town and was awarded an OBE for his cross-community work.

At the weekend, Dr Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor, said the diocese and Fr Symonds were cooperating fully with the investigation.

Dr Treanor added that the welfare of children was the "paramount concern for the diocese".

"Fr Symonds of course continues to enjoy the natural right of every person to the presumption of innocence," the statement continued

"In accordance with the Diocesan Policy of Safeguarding, all concerned are offered appropriate support."

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