Thursday, January 20, 2011

Priest charged
Catholic priest faces charges of sexually abusing four boys
By james truswell

A CATHOLIC priest has been charged with sexually abusing boys.

Father Bede Walsh faces 17 counts of indecent assault and two of serious sexual offences against four boys.

It is alleged Father Walsh, pictured, abused the boys in the 1980s and 1990s when they were aged between eight and 16.

The 57-year-old today declined to comment on the allegations when approached by The Sentinel at his Abbots Bromley home.

Now Father Walsh has been bailed to appear before North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court on Monday.

He served the parish of Cheadle for 14 years before moving to a church in Oxfordshire in 1999.

Staffordshire's senior crown prosecutor Sue Hanson said: "We received a police file on Alexander Bede Walsh in December following a long and detailed investigation by Staffordshire Police.

"The file was carefully examined and reviewed to ensure we had sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to charge Mr Walsh with any criminal offences that he may have committed.

"After examining all the evidence officers from Staffordshire Police charged Mr Walsh on January 11 with 17 counts of indecent assault and two serious sexual offences against four boys."

The Archdiocese of Birmingham today declined to comment on Father Walsh's court appearance.

It is understood senior clerics are meeting to discuss the case later this week.

As well as being the priest in charge of St Giles's Roman Catholic Church, in Cheadle, Father Walsh was also a governor and chaplain at Painsley Catholic High School and a governor at feeder schools in the district.

News of the charges have stunned community leaders in Cheadle.

Cheadle market superintendent and former parishioner Ray Wood had lived opposite Father Walsh in Charles Street.

Mr Wood said: "I am shocked to hear these allegations. I always found Father Bede to be an excellent parish priest and a very good ambassador for Cheadle."

Father Walsh was a regular at The Star Inn, at Cotton, near Alton, when he lived at the nearby presbytery at St Wilfred's Church during the 1980s.

Former landlord Peter Warrillow said: "News of these allegations will come as a shock to all the Catholics in the area."

Cheadle councillor Ron Locker said: "He was a very much loved priest. There is a very strong Catholic community in Cheadle and he was looked on very highly."

Father Walsh first came to the Staffordshire Moorlands in 1985 as procurator and priest-in-charge at Cotton College.

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