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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Paisley 'meeting on abuse claims'
Free Presbyterian leader Ian Paisley held a meeting of ministers to hear sex abuse allegations against a lay reader, a court has heard.

The claim was made on the second day of the trial of 71-year-old James Doherty at Londonderry Crown Court.

Mr Paisley met senior clergy three years ago over claims the lay reader had sexually abused two sisters in his congregation, the court was told.

Mr Doherty denies 25 charges, including rape and indecent assault.

The offences are alleged to have been committed between 1974 and 1985, when the sisters were children.

The alleged abuse was said to date from when each girl was about six years old.

'Contacted the police'

Under cross examination, the younger of the two told the court that when she met Mr Paisley, the Reverend David McIlveen and the Reverend John Douglas in March 2003, they told her they were shocked that they had not been contacted before.

She said she made a written statement and they told her to leave the matter in their hands.

The witness said she had first contacted her local Free Presbyterian minister about the alleged abuse nine years before that, but she believed he had done nothing because he wanted to protect the defendant.

The alleged victim, who is now 35, said she hoped the matter could have been sorted out within the church, as her only concern was that children would be protected.

The woman said she eventually contacted the police in October 2004.

Mr Doherty, whose address cannot be made public to protect his alleged victims, has been remanded on bail throughout the trial.


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