£200k Payout For Abused Former Choirboy

A former choirboy who suffered years of abuse by a ``vile'' Church of England priest has spoken of his relief at being awarded compensation of £200,000.

The victim, now aged in his 40s, says the abuse he suffered at the hands of Father Maxwell Halahan at St Faith's Church in Cowes, Isle Of Wight, in the 1970s ``ruined his life'' causing him lifelong psychological damage.

The payout, agreed by the Bishop of Portsmouth is to cover the cost of psychological treatment and loss of earnings.

Halahan, then aged 81, was jailed for three years in September 2011 at Portsmouth Crown Court after being found guilty of four counts of indecent assault.

The victim, who is granted anonymity by the courts, joined the choir when he was eight-years-old and within a month Halahan began regularly sexually abusing him in the nearby vicarage, bribing him with extra pocket money to keep quiet.

This continued for five years until he was 13 and Halahan left the church.

The victim said: ``As I went through my teenage years, the seriousness of what I had been subjected to hit me more and more and I began to go off the rails, particularly as I had no support from my family.

``I had always done well at school and my teachers predicted I had a bright future but I got involved with a bad crowd and began skipping classes.

``I was regularly in trouble with the police and I was sentenced to three months in a detention centre when I was 15.

``I had to sit my GCSEs in there and despite having no time to prepare I managed to get B grades in a number of them.

``But when I left, my relationship with my mum was so bad that I couldn't return home and because I couldn't hold down a job, I was forced to sleep rough for several months. I had hit rock bottom.''

He said that he had numerous different jobs throughout his 20s and 30s.

He married and had two children, but his relationship didn't work out and he said that the abuse he had suffered continued to haunt him, leaving him regularly depressed and unable to concentrate.

Now remarried, he added: ``In 2010 I plucked up the courage to go to the police because I realised he could still be out there putting other children through the same horrendous ordeal.

``They were fantastic and took everything I said seriously but Halahan, who was in his 80s by this point, pleaded not guilty so I was forced to go through the ordeal of giving evidence at the trial.

``Hearing the guilty verdict felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and he was jailed for three years.

``Although nothing can make up for the horror of what that vile man put me through and the effects it has had on my life, the settlement does finally give me some closure and I can concentrate on getting the best possible psychological support to try and rebuild my life.''

Stephanie Pelling, from Irwin Mitchell solicitors which represented the victim, said: ``Abuse as a child can have a massive impact on how people live their lives and develop as adults.

``We deal with many victims whose lives have been destroyed at the hands of their abusers and, though everyone's needs are different, the majority of people suffer long-term effects and need professional support to help them.

``The settlement agreed will provide the necessary therapies which we hope will help him to come to terms with what happened and allow him to move forward with his life.

``He has shown a tremendous amount of courage by speaking out about what happened to him and we hope it encourages other people to seek help if they have been the victim of any sort of abuse.''