Father Patrick Smythe, 78, was found guilty of six counts of indecent assault and one of attempted indecent assault following trial at Leeds Crown Court last week.
The ‘predatory paedophile’ committed a string of sexual offences against boys under the age of 16 between 1978 and 1983, whilst working at St Wilfred’s School in Featherstone.
Smythe came into contact with many boys at school and church, taking a number away on school trips where he would take the opportunity to groom and abuse those who were left in his care. The court heard of particular instances whereby he preyed on boys during swimming trips to Leeds and whilst on retreat at a hostel in North Yorkshire.
The abuse was concealed for many years, no doubt due to the grooming that would take place, in the sense that Smythe would bribe his victims with money, beer and cinema trips in exchange for their silence. One of his victims finally came forward years later after watching a documentary about abuse in the Catholic Church. The documentary brought back vivid memories for the victim, who initially spoke to his wife about the abuse before approaching the police.
Smythe was ultimately arrested and interviewed, yet he insisted on lying to officers, denying all but one offence. He claimed the offence to be an ‘accident’, during which he touched the private parts of a young boy whilst he slept.
On one occasion, Smythe had suspected that one of his victims was awake during the assault, so called him into his office. Once they were alone, Smythe confessed ‘I thought you were asleep. I didn’t know that you were awake.’ He told the young boy to forget about it and the matter was never discussed again.
After hearing that Smythe had been charged, others came forward to tell their stories. One victim described being touched inappropriately as he slept on a mattress, whilst another mentioned being offered a bribe after being sexually assaulted. The victim, a young boy at the time, took the bribe and remained silent, although he explained that this decision has bothered him throughout his life.
Prosecutor Michael Morley addressed the court, stating ‘we say he has a sexual interest in male children and not only that but we say he has acted on that and he has abused his position he had and we say that he sexually abused a number of boys who were in his care.’
Worryingly, it has also transpired that Smythe came into contact with children in Timor-Leste, taking them back to his hotel room during trips to the region spanning a decade. He had claimed to visit Timor-Leste as he was ‘sponsoring people of the country’, although the recent trial shed a sinister light on the visits. Smythe was said to have taken children back to his hotel to show them ‘how the other half lives.’
Smythe’s lawyer, Susannah Proctor, told that court that ‘there was absolutely no suspicion that the defendant has committed any offenses in Timor-Leste.’
The priest has been jailed for seven years and 6 months, and made subject of an indefinite notification and barring order, and an indefinite sexual harm prevention order.
At Farleys we continue to hear of more and more instances of abuse, which have occurred within religious or educational environments. Priests and teachers, for example, are trusted to look after young children, yet it is sadly the case that this trust is broken all too often.
Following abuse, young children are often too afraid to speak out, yet wish to pursue justice later in life. Fortunately, there are routes to redress for survivors, who may have success in pursuing criminal justice and may also be entitled to bring a civil claim. Many civil claims in these cases proceed as vicarious liability cases against an employer.
Whilst we deal with child abuse claims on a regular basis, historical claims can be particularly tricky due to evidential difficulties and limitation periods. Nonetheless, where there has been a police investigation or conviction, victims may have a claim in negligence against religious organisations, schools, local authorities or sporting institutions. Survivors may also be entitled to apply for criminal injuries compensation where there has been a police investigation/conviction.
Our main priority in these cases is to ensure that survivors are adequately compensated to enable them to access the support that they need. We will always consider the ways in which the client’s past, present and future have been affected in the pursuit of justice and recompense.
If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of a religious leader or teacher, we are available to discuss this with you. Our dedicated team support hundreds of survivors throughout the process of bringing a civil claim, treating every case with sensitivity, confidentiality and integrity.
Contact us in confidence on our dedicated abuse line on 0330 134 6430, by email or by using the chat function below.