One of Britain’s most senior lawyers has said that she feels a “huge compassion” for Cardinal Keith O’Brien who was accused of sexual misconduct.

Labour peer, Baroness Kennedy, said that it is unnatural to expect priests to remain celibate, and not be troubled by it.  She described the requirement of celibacy for Catholic priests as “torture”.

Baroness Kennedy was raised a Catholic herself in Glasgow, which was the same archdiocese represented by Cardinal O’Brien until he resigned last week, reports the Independent.

She said that she disagreed with the fact that he may have acted predatorily  but said: “Here was a man who quite clearly had wanted to have a sexual life and felt that it was a failing for him to want to have a sexual life … I feel very sad that it was something he had to in some way bury … I feel very sad for him and for his victims.”

In a statement issued by the Catholic church in Scotland, on Sunday, Cardinal Keith O’Brien addressed allegations made against him by five priests within the church, and admitted that his “sexual conduct” had been “below the standards expected” of him.

Earlier this week, it emerged that a fifth claim of “inappropriate behaviour” towards a male priest had been made against Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

The 74-year-old, former head of the Catholic church in Scotland, who contested the first set of allegations last weekend, resigned as leader of the Scottish Catholic Church last Monday.

The inquiry by the Vatican into the sexual conduct of Cardinal O’Brien is not likely to begin until after a new Pope is chosen – with the former Archbishop of Westminster saying the Catholic Church is made up of “saints and sinners”

“By his own admission, the cardinal stands exposed as a hypocrite. He preached publicly against homosexuality while privately seeking its pleasures,” human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said to PinkNews.co.uk on Monday.

Cardinal O’Brien could end up facing a criminal inquiry after Police received a formal complaint yesterday against him from lawyer Nick Freeman, well-known for representing a string of celebrities.