Catholic priest committed sex attacks on young victim

Father Stephen Shield.
Father Stephen Shield.
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A canon has been found guilty of sexually abusing a young man more than two decades ago.

Father Stephen Shield’s victim, who had hopes of joining the priesthood, said he felt like his soul had been “ripped out” after the sex attacks by the Catholic priest.

Father Shield, who trained in Rome, had denied sexually assaulting the man in the presbytery at English Martyrs Church, Garstang Road, Preston, on two occasions after first meeting him at Castlerigg Manor in Cumbria – where he also abused him.

But a jury at Preston Crown Court found him guilty of three charges of indecent assault after a trial.

The offences were committed between 1985 and 1992 when the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was aged 18 and 24.

Shield, 53, of Balmoral Road, Lancaster, became Canon at Lancaster Cathedral before he was arrested and charged with three counts of indecent assault.

Giving evidence by video link at Preston Crown Court, the victim said he first encountered Shield at a retreat in the Lake District but after another priest confronted him about the sex attack, Shield packed his bags and left in the night.

But several years later, the victim was sent to English Martyrs parish – not knowing until he arrived that Shield was also based at the church.

He described a dinner party hosted by Shield and attended by a number of local priests as well as other guests where Shield sexually assaulted him under the dinner table.

The man said he felt “paralysed” and was convinced other guests must have known what was going on.

He told the court: “I’m absolutely convinced they knew and they didn’t do anything.

“I had the impression they thought it was all right, it was normal, but it wasn’t normal to me.”

Shield was due to officiate at a funeral service two hours after his arrest, he told the jury.

Dressed in a blue jumper and shirt, he took to the witness stand to be cross examined at his trial.

He said: “I was supposed to conduct a funeral at 9.30am that morning.

“I was lying in bed going through the last few words of the service in my head.

“I was concerned about the family that I knew very well having another priest.”

Shield was taken to a police station and interviewed, with a female duty solicitor present.

The court heard that he made no comment to officers.

When he was asked to explain why, he said: “I was so shocked by the arrest I couldn’t think clearly about anything so I was grateful for her presence.

He added: “I didn’t answer the questions because I was advised not to.”