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Friday 19 September 2014

Priest who said he was an 'angel of God' jailed for abusing 18 boys

Conor Gallagher

Published 09/07/2013 | 05:00

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In some instances he threatened the boys with damnation if they reported what he did

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A FORMER priest who had been on the run in Brazil for almost a decade has been jailed for 10 years for abusing 18 boys over three decades.

Peter Kennedy (74), a former member of the Kiltegan Fathers order, committed the abuse across five different counties as he was moved from parish to parish.

On one occasion he told a boy that he was an "angel of God and God didn't mind what he did".

Some of the children went to their parents about the abuse but the situation was not reported to gardai or the church authorities. When one boy told his mother what had happened she slapped him and said "how dare you say that about a priest".

Another boy was repeatedly abused when Kennedy visited the family home to pray with the child's dying father and administer the last rites. While molesting him, Kennedy told the victim that "if he was a nice boy his father would be okay".

In 2003, Kennedy was involved in one of the largest sexual abuse settlements ever seen in Ireland, which resulted in a victim of his being awarded €325,000.

But afterwards he went to London to work as a taxi driver before fleeing to Brazil using a British passport. He rem- ained there for eight years before being deported to the UK in 2011.

From there he was returned to Ireland to face these charges.

Kennedy was a missionary in Africa before serving in several parishes in Ireland. He would use his position as a priest to gain access to the boys and molest them.

In some instances he threatened them with damnation if they reported what he did.

Kennedy, with a former address in Ballinahown, Westmeath, pleaded guilty to 27 counts of indecent assault in various areas of the country between 1968 and 1986.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that some of these charges were "sample counts" representing more than one instance of abuse.

After hearing the evidence, Judge Martin Nolan commented that by his count there were more than 100 instances. One victim alone told gardai he was abused about 100 times.

Imposing a 10-year sentence, Judge Nolan said that Kennedy had "destroyed the lives of 18 boys for no other reasons than to satiate his own perverted needs".

"He left a path of destruction behind him and one could not be anything but filled with sadness on hearing the victim impact reports," the judge said.

Judge Nolan said Kennedy betrayed his oath as a priest, his order, the community and "most terribly" the children he abused.

He said that the former priest knew the children would likely not be believed if they told their parents, or that their parents would be too afraid to go to the gardai.

INDUSTRIOUS

The judge remarked that, after getting away with it the first time, Kennedy realised he was unlikely to get caught and became "very industrious about satisfying these needs".

The sentence was backdated to December 2011 when Kennedy first went into custody in Ireland.

During a lengthy sentencing hearing, prosecuting counsel Mary Rose Gearty SC detailed a pattern of offending which often involved the accused calling over to families' homes and finding opportunities to be alone with the boys.

Much of the abuse happened in Kenn-edy's car after he would offer to take the boys on drives or ask them to come with him to give him directions.

One victim told gardai that Kennedy tried to rape him in a field. The boy fled and climbed a tree and Kennedy claimed to be "an angel of God" and said God would punish the boy if he didn't come down.

The victims were mostly aged between 10 and 15. However, one complainant told gardai he was eight when it started and another was a young adult when Kennedy attempted to molest him.

Kennedy stopped being an active priest in 1986 when some of these offences began to come to light. He then moved to London where he worked in various jobs before he was officially defrocked by the church in 2003.

Irish Independent

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