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Belgium will be asked to take jailed paedophile cleric

A PAEDOPHILE cleric who was given the longest jail sentence ever handed out here for sex abuse is set to retire to a Belgian nursing home.

Belgium will be asked in the coming days if it will allow James Kelly (72), known to most of his victims as Brother Ambrose, to retire there after a court was told yesterday that no "suitable" home could be found in Britain for him.

He pleaded guilty in 1999 to conducting a reign of sexual terror against handicapped and vulnerable young boys at Cork's Lota Home during the 1950s and 1960s.

He was originally sentenced to a total of 36 years but a court later said the sentence would be reduced to 18 months on the condition that Brother Ambrose retire to a home in Britain, run by his order, the Brothers of Charity.

Judge Patrick Moran was informed yesterday in Cork Circuit Criminal Court that no home in Britain was found for the cleric.

The British Home Office last night declined to comment on whether they had objected to the man spending the remainder of his life at a Brothers of Charity home in England.

"It is our policy not to comment on individual cases," a Home Office spokesperson said.

Last year, former Cork Circuit Court judge, A G Murphy, sparked an outcry when he released Br Ambrose after he served just 18 months of a 36-year term.

That term was made up of 18 consecutive two-year prison terms for abusing young boys aged between 10 and 16 years at Lota.

Counsel for the State yesterday addressed Judge Moran on a motion relating to the conditions of Br Ambrose's early release from prison, which included the condition that he never return here unless required to do so by legal concerns.

While the Brothers of Charity were unable to locate "a suitable home" in Britain, the order had identified a facility in Belgium.

This nursing home would cater for Br Ambrose's medical needs while providing the security required by the courts here.

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The 72-year-old cleric has undertaken, if released, to voluntarily return here if required to do so by the courts or to give evidence at the Laffoy Commission into Child Abuse.

Asked by the judge what was the attitude of the Belgian authorities to the Brothers of Charity plans, neither the State nor Br Ambrose's defence counsel were able to respond.

Judge Moran asked that "diplomatic channels" be used to determine whether Brussels has any difficulty with the Order's plans.

He adjourned the motion until next Tuesday, February 26 to determine the stance of the Belgian authorities.

Br Ambrose is due to complete his sentence and qualify for early release on the same date.

One of his victims, John Barrett, said last night that allowing the cleric to retire to Belgium was like "giving him a holiday".

"This man should die in prison for what he did. Even he doesn't know how many children he abused," he added.

"I tried to commit suicide three times over the abuse I suffered in Lota. This isn't justice. It's a sick joke," he declared.

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