Friday 15 November 2019

He stole my childhood, says victim abused from the age of 12 by his parish priest

John Paul Hunter at Bray Court. Inset: former parish priest Denis Nolan.
John Paul Hunter at Bray Court. Inset: former parish priest Denis Nolan.

Niall O'Connor and Esther Hayden

A FORMER parish priest has been jailed for seven years for the "cold and calculating" sexual abuse of a young boy he would pay money to after he abused him.

Denis Nolan (61) was convicted of "systematically" abusing his victim over five years, starting when he was just 12 years of age.

There were emotional scenes in court yesterday as the victim struggled to fight back tears as he watched his abuser sentenced. John Paul Hunter (19) bravely waived his anonymity as he recalled being subjected to horrendous abuse in the priest's car, home and local church in Rathnew, Co Wicklow.

Nolan, with an address at Carrigmore, Tinahely, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to sexual assault at the same address on a date between January 1, 2007 and June 30, 2007.

He also pleaded guilty to five counts of defilement of a child under the age of 15 years between July 1, 2007 and August 25, 2009, and five counts of defilement of a child under the age of 17 years between August 26, 2009 and August 25, 2011.


All defilement charges occurred in the Presbytery, Rathnew, where Nolan was parish priest at the time.

Judge Michael O'Shea told a court in Bray, Co Wicklow, that Nolan was in a "position of trust" and that he "should have been a protector of young John Paul and not a predator".

"He was just a child – innocent in the ways of the world," the judge said.

Mr Hunter, now a young dance teacher, told the Irish Independent that his abuser "stole my childhood".

"I don't have confidence anymore. I drink way too much and I have tried to take my own life on many occasions. He stole my childhood. But I just don't want anyone else to live the type of life I had."

Detective Sergeant Fergus O'Brien told the court that Mr Hunter was 12 years old when he approached the local parish priest, Nolan, for some odd jobs to gain extra money.

Three weeks after he started doing odd jobs in the presbytery in Rathnew, Nolan asked him to go to his family home in Tinahely and while there grabbed Mr Hunter between the legs.

Nolan told him it was "what adults do" and told him not to tell anyone. On arrival back in Rathnew he gave him €10. A few days later Mr Hunter was in the presbytery and Nolan asked him if he had told anyone about the incident in Tinahely and when he said no, he called him over to him. Nolan felt his leg and Mr Hunter felt Nolan's leg and there was kissing. Nolan then gave Mr Hunter €15.

The abuse escalated to the point of both men stripping naked and oral sex taking place. The money given to Mr Hunter by Nolan also increased to €40. Some days no sexual acts took place but Nolan still gave Mr Hunter money.

When Mr Hunter's mother, Theresa Stafford, confronted Nolan he said he had been giving him money because he was afraid of her son. The HSE had also visited Nolan in March 2010 and told him that if there was any contact between him and Mr Hunter he was to inform them. However he didn't contact the HSE and the sexual abuse continued.

In a victim impact statement from Mr Hunter, read out by Det Sgt O'Brien, Mr Hunter said he blamed himself for the abuse and said Nolan "made me think it was all right".

He said he felt like everyone in the community had been against him when details of the allegations came out and Det Sgt O'Brien said it was only when Nolan – who had been held in very high esteem in the community – pleaded guilty that people began to see they had misjudged the situation.


Acting for Nolan, Seamus Breen said Nolan was ashamed of his actions and said "the event was life- changing for the injured party, his family and the parish he served for 15 years."

The judge sentenced Nolan to seven years' imprisonment for each of the five charges of defilement of a child under the age of 15 years and sentenced him to three-and-a-half years on each of the remaining six charges, with the sentences running concurrently.

Nolan, who is already on the sex offenders register, is to have three years post-release supervision. Leave to appeal was refused.

The Catholic Church last night said the horrific case had "distressed" Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. In a statement, it said that Nolan was removed from duty after a complaint, not related to yesterday's proceedings, was received.

Irish Independent

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