Tuesday, 22 September 2015



Martin Kerr
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 caught the ferry from Ballycastle to Campbelltown in Scotland a number of weeks ago and managed to find himself a sympathetic and helpful landlord in the Scottish resort. He did not tell the landlord about his past but the landlord did his research and discovered the facts for himself. In spite of his discoveries, and after confronting Martin, he was willing to allow Mr Kerr to continue in his tenancy - which I thought was most kind of him. However in the early hours of Friday morning last Mr Kerr left the rented flat, without notice, and has apparently returned to Northern Ireland. Sadly the landlord claims he is still owed £700.

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 way 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 50 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.


  1. Think of what it would be to be Martin Kerr. Think of the life sentence with no chance of parole. Think of being hunted. Think of living in constant fear of discover, attack, being murdered by the lynch mob. Think of being Martin Kerr. Have compassion and mercy in your heart.

    1. Think of what it would be like to be one of his victims ! . Martin kerr has had plenty of compassion and mercy from many people like pat and the Scottish landlord but he throws it back in ther face .

    2. Your call for compassion for Martin Kerr is a very noble and human call.

      I hope you are making a general call - not just a call on me?

      I can assure you that Martin Kerr was treated with the utmost compassion here in Larne - not only by myself - but by my now deceased mother, Jo; by the congregation here etc.

      Everyone was aware of his past and everybody wanted to give him a second chance 100%.

      I have worked a great deal with paedophiles and their victims.

      I have come to the conclusion that there are two types of offender:

      1. Those who want help and do all they can to take it.

      2. Those who do not want help.

      At the end of his time here in Larne, Martin showed very clearly that he did not want help!

      Would I help him again?

      I would find it very hard to turn anyone away from my door.

      But there has to be no manipulation - and sadly too many abusers manipulate - even manipulate help and compassion :-(

    3. It is so difficult to balance help for victims and help for offenders.

      Of course there is no sinner or sin that is beyond God's ability to heal.

    4. Certainly Pat it was a general call for compassion and mercy and understanding, and I have no doubt that you have helped Martin Kerr more than anyone could have expected. You really have gone the extra mile, but I believe that following Jesus Christ involves loving and caring for the most despicable in our society, even when they throw our care and compassion back in our faces. That does not mean to say that we are simplistic in our realisation of the depravity or threat that they may continue to pose; but love, mercy and compassion need to be the impetus top any response. "Love to the loveless shown that they may lovely be." This is one of the reasons that I believe that Lord Longford and Fr Michael Hollings were two great saints. Lord Longford treated Myra Hindley will love, compassion and mercy to the day she died. Not only had she participated in the sexual assaults of children, she had assisted in their murders. Many accused him of naivety, but he always used to say that she was not born evil, that she was not an evil woman, rather a woman, a human being, who had done evil things. There is a great difference. God does not throw anyone away. Not you, not me, not Martin Kerr, not Myra Hindley. We are all created by God and God can redeem us, however wicked our behaviour, however much pain we have inflicted while on this earth. Remember the words from the Good Friday Hymn: My Song is Love Unknown? Love to the loveless shown that they may lovely be...

    5. This is one of the most thought provoking comments that has appeared on this Blog.

      I was (understandably) attacked by MK's victims and their families for helping him. I felt their anger very deeply and had broad enough shoulders to carry it.

      I often say to people that the dreaded Brendan Smyth was once a beautiful, innocent baby in a crib.

      As my late Dad used to say: "As the twig bends, so the tree grows".

      Jesus died on Calvary for BS and MK too!

  2. Martin kerr was living in Ballymoney very recently . I knew this man through my work . He was and probably still is using a app called grindr . For those who don't know it is a gay dating site . He is using an alias stating he wants too meet younger guys . I messaged him saying I knew who he was ect . He didn't try to deny it and told me to mind my own business he was entitled to be on grindr. The moderator of the site didn't feel the same and removed him but it's easy to get back on again . As a convicted pedophile and I'm sure on the sex offenders register he is not allowed to have a mobile laptop ect . This guy is still a risk to children and I fear nobody is keeping a eye on him

    1. I had not known he was in Ballymoney. I knew that in recent times he was in Lisburn and Armagh.

    2. He was in Ballymoney no more than 3 months ago . He was using a false name but I believe he was found out . Only a matter of time I guess n.i isn't a big place . In a sence I feel sorry for him but would I want him nxt door to me ? He'll no !!!!

  3. Don't think this blog is the place for all this stuff. Sorry.

    1. I understand that this is a VERY sensitive topic.

      But why not here?

      I want this Blog to be a place where EVERYTHING can be discussed and ideally discussed in a rational way.

      Sadly, this topic is a reality in the lives of many :-(

  4. Several issues spring to mind Pat.
    If you were helping Kerr in your priestly capacity, does confidentiality apply here, and to what extent?
    If you were helping him as "a public servant", [and I use that phrase as synonymous, in relation to professional responsibility, as a social worker or probation officer with whom you appear to have worked in partnership], then equally, the same question is valid: does the code of confidentiality apply here to debar you from revealing anything of your dealings with him?
    Your blog does not indicate further abuse by Mr Kerr, but that allegedly he absconded without payment to the landlord, and perhaps the title could be misleading in referring to the "Sad Saga Continuing".
    These are difficult issues given strong feelings about abuse, but let me be clear that I am certainly no apologist for any abuser.
    However, for my part, I side with anonymous at 18:33 in doubting whether this blog is appropriate.

    1. All the events surriunding this case, including my "role" was made public in two trials open to the public and the media.

      The " Sad Saga Continuing" refers to the aftermath of the cases - not to further abuse.

      If I was Martin Kerr I would go to London and change my name legally and let the authorites know my name, address etc.

      I would get a job in a sector in which I would have no contact with children.

      I would join a support group helping people in my own position.

      N Ireland is too small for some to make a new beginning.

      If we do not discuss these things on blogs like this -then we are leaving the issue to those who are ignorant and violent.

    2. MMM, You are forgetting one of the basic principles of anyone working in the area of sexual abuse - CONFIDENTIALITY is not allowed - either for medics like me, social workers, counsellors, therapists.

      Confidentiality was the principle thing that left historic abuse hidden!

    3. Mr Mourne, the law does not allow me to tell you "in confidence" that I have abused a child. Has this message still not got through? PP D&C

  5. Pat, I accept that much of your blog info was already in the public domain. I hadn't known that. But let me clarify the issue I'm uneasy about.
    I absolutely agree with subsequent replies that there can never be any cover up or failure to disclose abusive behaviour, past or present, under the mistaken banner of "confidentiality". That should be taken for granted by all professionals.
    But there is a distinction to be made between disclosing abusive behaviour to proper authority in a timely manner, and subsequently disclosing/discussing information , including photos, concerning an abuser in a public forum such as this blog. That's what I'm ill at ease with, and perhaps I could have worded it better.

    My social work friends say that it would be unprofessional for them to publicly discuss past involvement with a client even after a court case had revealed that client's abuse to the public. To do so would additionally expose them to the risk of sanctions from both their employer and professional body.
    So I stand by my contention that the blog was innappropriate, albeit I share the concerns in relation to Mr Kerr's activities.

    1. MMM, As always I totally respect your perspective.

      I think the blog raises some important issues from a number of angles.

      1. How important it is for us to be willing to discuss this topic rationally and not leave a vacuum that will be filled by ignorance and violence.

      2. How we as a society deal with former offenders.

      3. How a former offender finds a place and a way to create a new life.

      4. The distinction between those who take responsability for their actions and those who do not.

  6. He's a sick bastard who killed a great, beautiful, talented, big hearted, warm, loveable and innocent soul. He paid the price for Paul? What 9 months in jail? Then got out and tried it again? Are you kidding me? STICK SCUM LIKE THIS IN JAIL FOREVER! SCUM SCUM SCUM SCUM SCUM!!! HOPE YOU'RE READING KERR! FAT DISGUSTING MURDERING BASTARD! YOU'LL BE FACING GOD ONE DAY, TRY LYING TO HIM!

  7. Forgive me for swearing Bishop. I am angry, I lost a really beautiful friend.