2006 conviction of Carmelite Father Mark Paterson for sexual assault
was overturned last Thursday in Edinburgh’s High Court. Father Paterson,
55, had been the Catholic Chaplain of the University of Aberdeen. After
his conviction, his priestly faculties were suspended.
university’s Catholic Society maintained that there had been a gross
miscarriage of justice. Father Paterson appealed his conviction on the
grounds that he did not receive a fair trial, due to the negligence of
his solictor and the advocate who had represented him. For example,
three important witnesses had not been called to give their testimony in
Father Paterson’s defense. Only at this week’s appeal were two of the
witnesses allowed to testify. The third witness had died. However, a
fourth witness had emerged to give dramatic, even explosive evidence on
Father Paterson’s behalf.
The court heard testimony from Dr.
Alan Fimister, a graduate of Aberdeen University, that the complainant, a
non-student in her late thirties, blamed Father Paterson for the sudden
removal of his elderly assistant, Father Kelly, with whom the
complainant had enjoyed a close, if occasionally volatile, relationship.
Dr. Fimister testified that the complainant believed that Father
Paterson’s departure from Aberdeen University would lead to Father
The second Aberdeen witness, Ms. Emma Williams
testified that she had heard the complainant telling obviously false
nasty sex-themed stories about Father Paterson and others. Ms. Williams
characterized the complainant’s attitude towards Father Paterson as
“vicious.” She too had perceived that the complainant believed Father
Kelly’s return would follow Father Paterson’s removal.
the most dramatic evidence was given by Mrs. Mary McIlroy of Dunbarton.
The sole witness to the alleged sexual assault was believed at the time
of the trial to be the complainant’s mentally disabled sister Rosie.
Dr. Fimister and Ms. Williams both testified that the complainant, who
dominated and even spoke for Rosie, claimed Rosie was her sister. Mrs.
McIlroy testified that Rosie was in fact her own daughter Bernadette.
has severe learning disabilities and was dependent on her family’s care
before she was befriended by the complainant. Mrs. McIlroy testified
that the complainant had exerted great influence over Bernadette to the
extent of convincing her to leave first her family and then her hometown
with her. Mrs. McIlroy had no clue as to her daughter’s location until
after she heard of her involvement in Father Paterson’s trial. She
testified that the biographical details Rosie/Bernadette told the police
Mrs. McIlroy stated that she was devastated by
her daughter’s disappearance. After she described tasks she had done for
Bernadette, she was asked if she had been her daughter’s “carer,” (a
British term denoting someone paid to care for a disabled person).
Taken aback, Mrs. McIlroy replied, “No, I was not her carer. I am her
mum.” She has not seen Bernadette for over fifteen years.
Crown conceded the case on Thursday morning, and the court squashed the
conviction. Afterwards Father Paterson said he was delighted that his
eight year ordeal was over: “I’m over the moon!”