Monday 18 December 2017

Former priest jailed for ten years for sexual assault of 18 boys

Conor Gallagher

A FORMER priest who had been on the run in Brazil for almost a decade has been jailed for ten years for abusing 18 boys during the sixties, seventies and eighties.

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.


In the early 2000s many of his victims began to come forward causing Kennedy to leave Ireland for Brazil. He remained 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 and on one occasion told a boy that he (Kennedy) was an “angel of God and God didn’t mind what he did.”


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 ok.”


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 are “sample counts” representing more that than one instance of abuse.


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


Imposing a ten year sentence, Judge Nolan commented 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.


The judge remarked 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 until December 2011 when Kennedy first went into custody in Ireland.


During a lengthy sentence 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 Kennedy’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 climbed a tree to escape and Kennedy claimed to be “an angel of God” and said God would punish the boy if he didn’t come down. He then continued to molest him before threatening him that he and his parents would go to hell if he told anyone.


The court heard Kennedy would usually take his victim’s hands, place them on his genitals and make them masturbate him. Sometimes he would also touch their genitals and one victim described Kennedy trying to rape him and make him perform oral sex.


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.”


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.


Victim impact reports were read out in court on behalf of eight of the victims, all of who are now middle-aged or older. Several detailed depression, suicide attempts and substance abuse.


“He was ordained to do the work of God but instead he did the work of the devil,” one man wrote after telling the court that he has never hugged his children because of his issues with intimacy.


Another man requested a lengthy jail term for Kennedy and said he’s never shown any remorse and that any apology in court would be worthless. He said Kennedy had denied his victims closure by going on the run for so long.


Defence Counsel Remy Farrell SC read out an apology from his client. Mr Farrell asked the judge to consider Kennedy’s guilty pleas and advanced age and suggested that a partially suspended sentence or community based sanction could be imposed.

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