The Dublin Circuit Criminal Court has heard that the Catholic Church authorities gave gardaí ‘the run around’ when they were investigating the whereabouts of a priest accused of the indecent assault of an altar boy.

The comment was made during the sentence hearing of an 82-year-old priest who pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault on a boy who was aged 11 when the abuse began.

The court heard that following widespread publicity about the priest, he left the country in 2002 and was located by gardaí in the UK in 2007.

In court today gardaí agreed with lawyers for the priest that Church authorities had given them ‘something of the run around’ in efforts to locate him.

Counsel for the accused Remy Farrell said the Church had been ‘reluctant to deal with the matter in a candid fashion’ but when the priest was approached by gardaí in the UK he took a different view.

The court heard the priest had indecently assaulted an altar boy from 1979 to 1983 at a parochial house in a Dublin suburb and during trips to the beach.

He also intercepted him on journeys to school and abused him in his car. The victim told gardaí he had changed his bus stop and his journey times but the priest still managed to find him.

The court heard that the priest would ring the boy's mother and ask if he could come to his house to do odd jobs. He would also take him on trips to the beach.

In statements to gardaí the priest said he was not a paedophile, he ‘was only attracted to altar boys’. He said he could not explain it and did not think any psychiatrist could explain it either.

He had received counselling in the US and said he regretted what had happened and was sorry.

The court heard that the victim chose not to attend court and declined to make a victim impact statement. He made the complaint in 2003 after his mother became concerned after reading newspaper articles about the priest.

The case has been adjourned until February next.