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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Priest 'paid for girl's grooming'
Father Jeremiah McGrath
Father Jeremiah McGrath denies the charges
A Catholic priest gave thousands of pounds to a friend to help him groom a young girl for sex, a court heard.

Father Jeremiah McGrath allegedly gave the money to William Adams, 38, who used it to buy gifts for an 11-year-old girl he had befriended in Liverpool.

The 62-year-old is accused of three counts of facilitating the commission of a child sex offence and one count of sexual assault. He denies the charges.

Fr McGrath, of County Fermanagh, is on trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Andrew Menary QC, prosecuting, said the Northern Irish priest knew Adams had a previous conviction for the rape of an eight-year-old girl, and often visited him in jail.

The prosecution's allegation is that most, if not all of the money, came from this defendant
Andrew Menary QC

He told the jury that Fr McGrath also knew about Adams' friendship with the Liverpool girl.

The treats lavished on the girl included a three-week holiday in Blackpool.

Adams did not appear to have a job or any income apart from his state benefits, but managed to fund gifts for the girl, Mr Menary said.

"The prosecution's allegation is that most, if not all of the money, came from this defendant, Jeremiah McGrath," he added.

"We say that because of his very close relationship with William Adams, he regularly sent Adams significant amounts of money or paid directly for certain aspects of his lifestyle.

"The existence of this money plainly enabled William Adams to provide these treats for the girl and her family and that Jeremiah McGrath knew, or at the very least believed, that Adams was sexually abusing the girl."

'Desires indulged'

Fr McGrath, of Rosslea, County Fermanagh, also faces one charge of assault over a claim he touched the girl in a sexual manner while giving her a lift.

He listened to the prosecution's opening statement on Tuesday and made occasional notes.

The priest showed no reaction when Mr Menary claimed there was evidence of a sexual relationship between the two men, who met about 20 years ago in Ireland.

In police interviews, Fr McGrath denied any impropriety in relation to the girl but accepted the Roman Catholic church would not approve of certain elements of his relationship with Adams, the court heard.

Mr Menary added: "It seems Jeremiah McGrath would indulge all of William Adams' desires, including funding his interest in young girls, in order to keep Adams happy."

After hearing the opening statement, the jury were shown a lengthy interview with the girl, who cannot be named.

During the video, she described how Adams regularly abused her.

The trial, which was adjourned on Tuesday, is expected to last until 25 May.

Priest denies abusing young girl
10 Apr 06 |  Merseyside
Priest in child abuse court case
21 Dec 05 |  Merseyside

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