Martin Kerr, the former sacristan of St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast, who has been to prison twice for abusing altar boys and scouts in the Cathedral parish has made a failed attempt to emigrate to Scotland and has returned to Northern Ireland.


Martin Kerr – Senior Altar Boy (Right) serving Mass For Bishop Cahal Daly


In the interests of truth and accuracy it must be pointed out that there are no allegations that Martin Kerr has reoffended since his second time in prison and the landlord has informed me that Mr Kerr says that he completed his time on the Sex Offenders Register in February 2015.

As far as the law in concerned Martin Kerr has paid his debt to society for the wrong he did. Of course that does not mean that his victims of their families can ever forget – much less forgive – the harm he did. We must not lecture them about forgiving and forgetting. The wounds are their wounds. They may never be ready to forgive. And how can they ever forget?

The saddest victim of all was young Paul Carson from the Lower Falls Road in Belfast who sadly took his own life at a very young age because he could not live with his pain. This young man was deprived of happiness, peace of mind and indeed his very life. It was the most awful tragedy.


Paul Carson RIP

After his first stint in prison Martin Kerr asked me to help him. I agreed to help him for two reasons:

1. Hoping that my help and supervision would prevent him ever re-offending and hurting another young person. In other words helping him NOT to reoffend was a very practical form of child protection.

2. I am a priest. It is a priest’s solemn vocation to help everybody – even and especially people that other people regard as outcasts and lepers. Jesus cleansed lepers. In a very real sense people like Martin Kerr are the “lepers” of our day.

How did I help him?

1. I helped him to get a flat in a business area where there were no children, no families and no schools.

2. I became the person who had daily contact with him and watched him on behalf of the police, the social services and the probation services. Part of my role was to attend a regular meeting with the authorities to report to them how he was behaving and living his life.

3. I insisted on Martin Kerr engaging in personal and group counselling and attending therapy sessions provided by the probation services – counselling and therapy that is aimed at making abusers face up to what they did, take full responsibility for their crimes and engaging in a LIFE TIME management plan to ensure that they never reoffended.

Sadly all my efforts, and the efforts of so many others, failed. Martin Kerr reoffended through internet contact with another abuser. That very day I reported him to the police and within an hour he was arrested and was back in prison.

I have not had any contact with him since. He must now be around 55+ years old.

Since he has come out of prison he has moved from location to location – as people have recognised him. He has been threatened by both Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries.

Martin Kerr sponsoring a child for confirmation by Bishop Walsh and watched by Fathers Sean Crummey and Matt Wallace RIP


The discussion on paedophilia and paedophiles invariably ends up in hysteria and anger. This is understandable as most people get very upset about anyone or anything that hurts an innocent young child.

However, surely, there must be room for a rational and Christian approach? I think the following points help:

1. The ABSOLUTE PRIORITY all the time must be the safeguarding and protecting of innocent little children and vulnerable adults.

2. Paedophilia is a most serious crime that calls for substantial sentences and punishment.

3. The victim of this crime must be given the primary gift of being believed. They must be given the full support of everyone involved. They must have every useful type of counselling and therapy made available to them immediately – by a therapist or counsellor of their own choosing.

4. The victim must be generously and voluntarily awarded substantial compensation by all those in a position to offer such compensation.

5. The family of the victim, who will be experiencing their own trauma over the abuse, must also be afforded every possible type of support, therapy and counselling.

The Perpetrators:

1. The abuser should be brought before the courts and be punished with an appropriate sentence and be placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

2. While in prison the abuser should have therapy available to him / her in order to come to the realisation of the great harm they have done and their need to manage their sexual desires for life. If the abuser refuses therapy or does not co-operate with therapy he/she should not be considered for parole or release on licence.

3. When the abuser leaves prison he/she should be mandated to continue life management therapy and should be closely supervised by the probation services, the social services and the police in the place where they live.

4. The abuser should only be allowed to live in an area where the possible access to children, schools etc is either non-existent or at a bare minimum.

We need to have an intelligent and rational debate about this very sensitive topic.


The idea that abusers should only be allowed out in the company of a court appointed and fully vetted chaperone is an excellent idea.

These chaperones should have good training and a strict code of conduct. They should be appointed by the courts and assigned to particular abusers by the courts. They should have absolutely no connection to the abuser – where familial, religious, etc.

There should be strict “no go” areas – like schools, youth clubs  and all child/youth facilities.

The abuser and chaperone should not develop a friendship to stop the abuser manipulating the chaperone.

Abusers and chaperones should be welcome in churches after identifying themselves with the church safeguarding person.