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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 18:04 GMT
Apology to sex abuse victims

A Catholic religious order has apologised to victims of a former member who was jailed for two years for sexually abusing children.

Brendan John Halpin, 54, from Dermot Hill Grove in west Belfast, pleaded guilty to a string of offences which took place between 1975 and 1981.

On Friday he was jailed for two years for sex offences against three children from the same family.

The Teer family gave up their right to anonymity so that Halpin could be publicly identified.

In a statement, the Christian Brothers said they deeply regretted the hurt and pain caused to Halpin's victims.

"We are saddened by his actions and offer our sincere apologies to the victims and their families," the statement said.

"We recognise the trauma and distress that the victims have suffered and the fundamental betrayal of trust involved.

"The actions of Brendan Halpin in this case were directly contrary to everything the congregation stands for and we find such conduct abhorrent."

Two sisters and their brother, who are now aged in their 30s, were abused by Halpin after he befriended the family.

The judge, Lord Justice McCollum, told Halpin he had abused his position to satisfy his sexual impulses.

Sentencing him to two years in prison, with another two years on probation, the judge said he was taking into account Halpin's guilty plea and the apology he had made to the family.

Years of abuse

The court heard that the abuse against the family came to light last January when the older sister and her brother lodged a complaint with the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The woman, who was 12 when the abuse began in 1975, described how Halpin repeatedly took her back to his room.

Prosecuting counsel said: "By the time she was 13 they had established a relationship which was unhealthy and sexually orientated."

The victim was said to be "powerless to resist him" until their relationship ended when she was 22.

Halpin also subjected her younger sister to a similar ordeal from the age of 11.

"On one occasion he used both girls at the same time," the prosecutor said.

In 1976 he then widened his abuse to the girls' younger brother after becoming friendly with the family.

This continued until 1981 when, at the age of 13, the boy was taken into foster care.

'Lenient sentence'

Outside court, one of those Halpin abused from the age of eight spoke of his "disgust" that lawyers for the accused had asked that reporting restrictions be placed.

"We made a decision in recent weeks to waive our anonymity," the man, now 33, said.

He also said he felt the sentence, which included two years probation and a period attending a clinic following Halpin's release was too lenient.

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