Former Southsea priest jailed for choir boy abuse

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A RETIRED priest has been jailed for repeatedly abusing a choir boy.

For 35 years Maxwell Halahan, of Old Canal, Southsea, thought he had got away with the sexual assaults.

He tried to buy the boy’s silence by paying him extra money on top of what he was due for singing in the choir.

The victim, who is now in his 40s, had tried to tell his mother at the time but she dismissed what he was saying.

Halahan, who was a priest at St Faith’s Church in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight in the 1970s, was arrested last year when the victim went to the police for fear that Halahan could abuse other young boys.

The 81-year-old, who was convicted in 1998 of abusing another boy in 1987, denied the offences.

But he was found guilty of four counts of repeated indecent assaults after a trial at Portsmouth Crown Court.

Despite Halahan’s ill health Judge Roger Hetherington jailed him for three years.

Judge Hetherington said: ‘You were then a parish priest in your late 40s, the vicar of a Church of England parish on the Isle of Wight.

‘The victim was a choirboy, aged nine to 11, who regularly attended church. After morning communion he and other boys would go to the vicarage and play games in one of the rooms there.

‘You would come over and perhaps join in with some of the games. ‘You had an attraction to boys and you enticed this particular boy to stay on after the other boys had gone.’

He said Halahan repeatedly sexually abused the boy at the vicarage over a period of up to a year.

‘In essence you bought his silence by paying him extra money, over and above what he was due for singing in the choir,’ he said.

‘You knew his family, you knew that money was extremely tight and this boy was vulnerable.

‘He tried to tell his mother but she dismissed it and after that he tried to bury it.

‘It was entirely understandable that your victim did not report your offences at the time, having been rebuffed by his own mother.’

The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was made to give evidence at the trial.

The judge said: ‘From his evidence I have no doubt that what you did had a very serious and damaging effect on his development.

‘As he put it in his own words “my childhood ended with Father Halahan”.’

Elisabeth Bussey-Jones said Halahan, who walks with a stick and is partially deaf, was too ill to withstand prison.

She said that at the time of the offences he had been suffering with mental health issues.

‘Clearly at that time, back in the 1970s, he was not a well man,’ she said.

She added that, because of his age and health, he no longer represented a risk to children.

But Judge Hetherington said: ‘In my judgement you do retain some vigour and mental agility.

‘I do not consider that your ill health is such that it procludes a custodial sentence.

‘The sentence must mark the gravity of the offences.’

Halahan will remain on the sex offender’s register indefinitely.