Thursday 22 March 2018

Former priest to be sentenced for rape

Now 24-year-old victim says abuse had traumatic effect on his life

A former priest is to be sentenced next week for raping and sexual assaulting a young boy whom he paid to do his gardening.

The 64-year-old man, who cannot be named in order to protect the anonymity of the victim, had denied two counts of rape and four of sexually assaulting the boy in Co Wicklow between January 2005 and September 2006.

The accused, who has since been defrocked, was found guilty by a jury and faces sentencing next Monday at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin.

The court heard that the victim was aged around 13 at the time of the offences and had, from an early age, shown an interest in horticulture and animal husbandry.

The former priest, who was also a convent chaplain and a member of a school board of management, gave the boy the opportunity to work in his garden and trained him in what to do, offering him the use of wellington boots.

He paid the victim €10 or €15 in general for his work in the garden, but this amount increased once the abuse began.

The court heard that the then priest initially made inappropriate remarks about whether or not the victim was entering puberty. This progressed to fondling and then to oral rape and sexual assault in the bedroom of the priest's house.

The boy was subsequently raped and sexually assaulted on a number of occasions, three times in a presbytery in Co Wicklow and once in a car near the priest's house.

The court heard that the final rape in a presbytery injured the boy, causing him a lot of pain and leading to an operation and continuing health problems.

Conor Devally SC, for the State, told the court the boy had been 'somewhat naive' and didn't know anything about what was happening, although he felt confused and uncomfortable.

The court heard the boy 'revered' the accused's status as a priest, and thought 'if the priest was doing it, then it must be so'.

The victim was encouraged by the priest to look at sexual matters on the internet. When his father discovered what he was looking at online the boy did not report that it had been at the behest of the priest.

The abuse finally came to light as a result of the victim having significant problems as a student, and also health problems as a result of the rapes.

In a victim impact statement read out in court on his behalf, the now 24-year-old said the abuse he had suffered at the hands of the priest had a traumatic impact on his life.

He said he could not manage without the support of others and his medication, and that it felt 'almost impossible' to take control of his life.

He said he suffered greatly from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, panic and fear and said that many times on a weekly basis, he felt he would be 'better off dead'.

The court heard he finds it difficult to hold down a job or to function on a day-to-day basis, and that he avoids his friends and social events because he feels he 'just doesn't fit in'.

'I cannot get the thoughts of what happened to me out of my head. It fills me with fear. Sometimes I feel I have no power in my body to move,' he said, adding that that he could not sleep because of flashbacks and traumatic nightmares.

'When I look in the mirror I hate my body and I hate myself,' he wrote, adding that he was filled with worry and confusion about whether he would ever be able to have an intimate relationship.

He said his sister had had to move schools as a result of being bullied 'about me being with the priest' and that his parents were also constantly stressed about it.

'I wanted to study to be an equine vet. I wanted to see myself travelling and being able to form a relationship and live a normal life,' he said, but added that because of the abuse, he didn't feel able to 'physically or mentally' take charge of his life.

The accused is currently serving a sentence at Midlands Prison. Conor McKenna BL, defending, said that through his own actions the accused was a now destitute man.

He said his client was ordained in 1979 and had no complaints against him until these matters came to light. He was laicised and his house was sold by his family, from whom he is estranged.

A governor's report from Midlands Prison said the accused was on an 'enhanced privilege regime' and was putting his time in prison to some good use by taking part in various classes and courses.

The former priest has 20 previous convictions relating to the persistent defilement and sexual assault of another boy, described as a 'successor' to this victim, between 2007 and 2012.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy adjourned the case to next Monday for sentence.

Wicklow People