At 11am yesterday a good and holy priest was finally vindicated at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh. Between 2002 and 2004 Fr Mark Paterson O. Carm. was the much loved Catholic Chaplain of Aberdeen University. When he took over as chaplain, the Catholic Society had one member left. By the time he left, the Chaplaincy was the centre of missionary activity in the University. The Catholic Society had hundreds of members, and the wheels were in motion to restore the Mass in the Mediaeval Chapel. He rose before dawn every day to adore the Blessed Sacrament and devoted many hours every week to visiting the homeless and dispensing the sacraments to the sick in hospital.
All of this came to an end in 2004 when he was pulled out of Aberdeen as a result of bizarre allegations of sexual assault. No one believed a word of it, and unfortunately his lawyer neglected to prepare properly for his trial and failed to precognose defence witnesses who were identified to him and other important steps in advance of the trial, the result being that he received an unfair trial. The advocate representing him in court having no ammunition with which to cross-examine the crown witnesses, their evidence went virtually unchallenged. The Sheriff (the Judge in the lower court in Scotland) decided to hold the trial mostly in camera and then found Fr Paterson guilty. The guilty verdict was so unexpected that Fr Paterson’s advocate and the Procurator Fiscal who conducted the Crown case could not reconcile the verdict with the evidence as presented in the court. After he pronounced the fateful words the Sheriff discernibly hesitated at the dropped jaws of those present in the court. It is hardly surprising that Fr Paterson’s defence team advised him that he had no grounds of appeal against his conviction as the main plank of any appeal a would have to be their own incompetence.
Thanks be to God, a retired solicitor in Aberdeen, Mr Gerald Cunningham, laboured for no reward for seven years to reverse this gross miscarriage of justice. Fighting to prove the incompetence of Fr Paterson’s defence and he then discovered a new witness who could prove that the key corroborating witness was the victim of such extreme brainwashing by the accuser that she no longer knows her own name. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission conducted a thorough investigation of the inadequacies of the defence team, the undisclosed defence evidence and the new evidence and recommended a re-examination of the conviction by the High Court in Edinburgh. On the third day of proceedings, this Thursday morning, the Crown threw in the towel and the Judges took just seconds to decide to quash the conviction that has afflicted Fr Paterson for eight long years.