Paedophile Preston priest Edmund Cotter avoids immediate jail term after charges involving a 12th victim brought
A perverted priest abused a seven-year-old girl moments after she received her first Holy communion.
Edmund Cotter, now 74, was alone with the youngster when he told her "not to worry" as she would receive a good breakfast - the treat given by the church to children after their first communion.
Afterwards he told his victim she was "special" and seated her at the top table.
Cotter, who abused the girl on two more occasions, has already served a five year and two month jail term for indecently assaulting other children - 10 girls and a boy aged seven to 11 - during his ministry at St Anthony's Church and St Gregory's Church in Preston in the 1970s.
Preston Crown Court heard Cotter, now of Castlegate, Penrith, Cumbria, made no comment when he was interviewed by police in September 2002 but has admitted three indecent assaults.
Prosecuting, Jonathan Dickinson said the woman had said she was confused and embarrassed and did not tell anyone at the time.
Over the years she put the experience to the back of her mind, but in 2019 her workplace told her a trainee priest was going to start working alongside her, which caused her to break down and confide in her partner.
"It's affected everything, education, lack of confidence, and weight loss, no prospects, thinking you are stupid, debilitating fear, inability to make or keep friends or partners, distancing myself from my family and having no faith at all in religion."
She said she had seen friends and family supported by their faith in their time of need, but she had 'nothing' because Cotter took her faith away from her.
The court heard the defendant would have been aged in his mid 20s at the time of the offences.
He was working as a parish priest in Dalton, south Cumbria, when the first allegations emerged. A previous court case heard he told one of the youngsters, all aged between seven and 11, that he was "like God" and that if she was not a good girl she would "burn in Hell".
Virginia Hayton, defending, said he now led a solitary life.
She added: " He's clearly a very different man now than he was then. He stopped his offending in the 1980s.
"We too are in a very different climate than we were even when he was sentenced in 2007. Now he is 13 years older than when he was sentenced last time and prison will be a very different environment due to the pandemic.
Judge Andrew Jefferies QC said he had "hesitantly and cautiously" considered the circumstances, including his previous lengthy sentence, age, and behaviour, compliance with court orders,and rehabilitation since,.
He agreed to suspend his 12 month jail term for 18 months and said: "There have been many changes in legislation between the offending and now. The real question is whether or not that 12 months should be suspended."
"I obviously do not want the victim to think I don't think this isn't a serious set of offending. Those of us in the criminal justice system know how difficult it is for people to reveal the sorts of things this victim revealed you had done to her."
He imposed a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years.
**To report a sexual crime call police on 101. Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline, in confidence, on 0808 800 5000. Children seeking support can call Childline on 0800 1111.
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