Saturday 25 November 2017

John Paul broke silence to stop abuse happening other children

John Paul Stafford
John Paul Stafford

Esther Hayden

'I'm happy with the seven-year sentence,' said a brave John Paul Stafford from his Rathnew home, 'but I'll have to live with this for life.'

Last Friday Fr. Denis Nolan, former curate in Rathnew, was jailed for seven years for the 'systematic' abuse of young John Paul from the age of 12 years.

Now 19 years old, John Paul said the enormity of the verdict hasn't really sunk in yet. 'It hasn't really hit me yet. I'm glad it's over but it just doesn't feel real. I've been waiting so long (for the court) and it was over so quick. 'It seemed to happen so quick, it was like we were just in and out of court on Friday. I'm happy with the seven-year sentence but I'll have to live with this for life.'

Taking a brave step to remove the comfort of anonymity, John Paul said breaking his silence was as much for other people as it was for himself.

'I'm not going to stop. People want me to just let this die and forget about it but if I get the opportunity to help one or two children then it's worth it. I don't want people to forget that this kind of thing is happening on a day-to-day basis and it shouldn't be.

'People think it's stopped but it hasn't. It's still happening. I'm going to start working with groups (dealing with child sexual abuse) in a couple of weeks once I get my head around things.'

Last Friday, the disgraced Denis Nolan didn't meet the gaze of the victim he manipulated and abused for almost five years. However, supported by his friends and family John Paul was able to sit in the courtroom and listen to the details of his horrific abuse.


He said that telling his mother that Fr. Nolan had been abusing him had been incredibly difficult but said with the backing of his family and a few trusted friends he felt able to go to the gardaí to make a complaint.

'I was scared going to the gardaí even though I knew I was telling the truth. I think part of it was that I was a child and he was an adult, a priest. I think I thought that nobody would believe me. I always felt that why would people believe me when he was such a respected adult even though I knew I was telling the truth.

'But it's true what they say you only have a number of true friends but if they believe, that's what matters. When he pleaded guilty and I knew I didn't have to get up and say what he had done to me, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I've gotten great messages of support from people since the verdict.'

John Paul's mother Theresa Stafford only heard much of the details of the abuse her son suffered at the hands of Denis Nolan last Friday in court and is still coming to terms with both the details and the verdict.

'It's still very hard to take in. It came around so quick and now it's all over. I'm really still just trying to get my head around it. I'm glad it's over and I'm glad he (Denis Nolan) is put away. It was heartbreaking to hear the details on Friday and everyone in court was very emotional.

'We didn't get much support (from people) all the way through it but we will see it through as a family. He (John Paul) wasn't believed in the beginning by anybody but we proved them all wrong.'

Now teaching dance to children with special needs and working as a part-time DJ, John Paul is anxious to move forward with his life.

'I really didn't know it was going to be this big.

'I waived my right to anonymity not because I had something to prove but because I just wanted to help other people. I think I've moved on a lot and think I've handled it quite well. I do believe that I can put it behind me but I don't want people to forget.

John Paul thanked Fergus O'Brien and Mick Larkin of the Wicklow Gardaí, his family and friends for their unwavering support and to the media for allowing him to tell his story.

Detective Sgt. Fergus O'Brien, who was involved in the investigation of the case, said he was glad there had been a 'satisfactory conclusion for the victim and his family. You are doing it (the investigation) for them really and you just hope that the case goes well and there's a successful conviction because it is an ordeal for the victim.

'Any investigation like this (sexual abuse) is difficult and there's a huge emotional aspect to it.

'In this case the guilty plea came very quickly and the case itself progressed very quickly.'

In response to the Archdiocese statement stating that Denis Nolan had stepped aside arising from a 'complaint of child sexual abuse against Fr. Denis Nolan, not related to' Friday's case he said that 'no other cases (against Denis Nolan) are under investigation by the Wicklow Gardaí and John Paul's case was the only one we investigated'.

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