Brother of Charity jailed on sex abuse of boys

A 75-year-old member of the Brothers of Charity congregation who sexually abused orphans and mildly mentally handicapped children…

A 75-year-old member of the Brothers of Charity congregation who sexually abused orphans and mildly mentally handicapped children at a special school in Galway during the 1960s was sentenced to three years in prison at Galway Circuit Court yesterday.

James Kelly, also known as Brother Ambrose, and from Cork, is currently serving a 36year sentence for similar offences committed during the 1940s and 1950s at another Brothers of Charity institution, the Lota Children's Home in Cork.

The court in Galway heard yesterday that Kelly had sexually abused 10 children, ranging in age from nine to 14, over a 3 1/2 period from September 1965 to April 1969, while he was principal at the Holy Family School, at Woodlands, Renmore, Galway. Twenty sample charges involving indecent assault were read out in court.

Det Garda Anthony Reidy said the first complaint was made in 1997 by a former pupil, now aged 45, who had seen a British television programme on child abuse. At the time he was trying to trace his parents through the Western Health Board.


He had been sent as an orphan to the Holy Family School and had been subjected to severe abuse at the hands of Kelly. He confided in his wife and later made a formal complaint to Det Garda Reidy.

Five more victims, now in their 40s, came forward later on. Following an admission by Kelly that he had abused more boys but could not remember their names, a helpline was set up last year, which received 96 calls. From that, four more victims came forward and made formal complaints.

Det Garda Reidy said the types of sexual abuse varied from victim to victim. Some had been undressed and fondled by their abuser, but others had been more seriously assaulted.

In two cases, victims had been subjected to oral sex, digital penetration and attempted buggery. The accused seemed to lose interest in the boys once they reached the age of 15.

The abuse took place at any time, day or night and boys would cry themselves to sleep or lie listening to others crying who had just been abused, either in the dormitory or in Kelly's office or bedroom.

He said that while the Holy Family School was built to cater for boys with mental handicap, many orphans with no learning difficulties found themselves wrongfully sent there.

Det Garda Reidy said that when an internal complaint was made in April 1965 that Kelly was involved in "indiscreet behaviour", he was transferred overnight to Waterford and was sent from there to Liverpool, where he again sexually abused another victim. He was convicted of that offence and put on three years' probation by a British court last year.

Kelly, who is currently serving a sentence at the Curragh Camp Prison for the Cork offences, told the court he was extremely sorry for the hurt he had caused. "I deeply apologise to the past pupils whom I have abused. I am deeply sorry and hope they can forgive me in time for my sinful behaviour." The superior of the Brothers of Charity in Ireland and England, Brother John O'Shea, said the congregation was deeply concerned and scarred by individuals who had committed acts of sexual abuse. The congregation was founded, he said, to help people. "It is a profound and sincere regret to us that so many people have been hurt and we apologise to victims of abuse," Mr Patrick McCarty SC, for the defence, said the Brothers of Charity had made a panel of professional counsellors available to victims of abuse and there was also a fund allocated to victims who wished to avail of private counselling.

Judge Carroll Moran said this was a particularly serious case because there were so many victims who had been abused in a relatively short space of time, in comparison to the offences perpetrated in Cork and England.

He sentenced the accused to three years on each of the 20 charges before the court, to run concurrently with his present sentence and refused leave to appeal severity.