Ex-priest loses appeal against conviction for abusing boy he paid to do the gardening

Courts hears that rape by Denis Nolan injured boy and left him with health problems

A former priest who raped a child he had paid to do his gardening has lost an appeal against his conviction.

Denis Nolan (64), formerly of The Presbytery, Rathnew, Co Wicklow, was found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of six counts of oral rape, defilement and sexual assault of the boy at his home between 2005 and 2006 when the victim was aged between 10 and 11.

Nolan, who was a parish priest in Co Wicklow and served on the board of management of a local school, had denied the charges.

He was already serving a sentence for sexually abusing a different boy - and had been defrocked - when he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on May 15th, 2017.


The Central Criminal Court heard the former priest gave the victim the opportunity to work in his garden and the garden of the presbytery. 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 the then priest initially made inappropriate remarks about whether or not the victim was entering puberty, and encouraged him to look up sexual subjects online. 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 the 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.

Nolan’s conviction was upheld on Tuesday following an unsuccessful appeal which focused on the trial judge’s decision not to give the jury a corroboration warning.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Hedigan said the Court of Appeal was not satisfied that there was any incorrect legal basis for deciding not to give a warning.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the trial judge had found that alleged inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence did not go beyond the normal level of inconsistencies found in cases of this nature.

The alleged inconsistencies, as submitted by Nolan’s lawyers, were that the complainant had anchored the dates of the offending around his confirmation. Furthermore, in civil proceedings, the complainant had referred to four oral rapes while in his evidence he referred to three.

Mr Justice Hedigan, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, and Mr Justice John Edwards, said it was hardly surprising that certain inconsistencies in these case innocently occur and that was certainly the case in respect of children. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

In his victim impact statement the victim, who is now an adult, said that the abuse had 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”.