‘I Finally Have Closure’ Says Man Abused By Vicar Over 30 Years Ago

Child Abuse Lawyer Pays Tribute To Courageous Victim For Speaking Out

16.04.2013

By Helen MacGregor

A former choirboy who suffered years of sustained abuse by a ‘vile’ priest has spoken of his relief at being awarded a £200,000 settlement from the Church of England to cover his loss of earnings and treatment for the psychological trauma that will affect him forever.

Malcolm* 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’ affecting everything from his personal relationships to his chosen career path and development.

He instructed expert child abuse lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help him in a battle for justice and as he seeks to overcome the ordeal. He is now speaking out for the first time after the Bishop of Portsmouth agreed to pay the six-figure sum.

Stephanie Pelling from Irwin Mitchell’s London office which has a specialist child abuse team, 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 Malcolm to come to terms with what happened and allow him to move forward with his life.

 “Malcolm 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.”

Malcolm, who’s now in his 40s, joined the choir when he was just 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 Malcolm was 13 and Halahan suddenly left the church.

He 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.”

Malcolm worked numerous different jobs throughout his 20s and 30s, married and had two children, but his relationship didn’t work out and 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 eighties 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.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to child abuse claims