Former Franciscan brother gets 10 years for sex offences against pupils

 

A man who pleaded guilty to sexual offences against boys he taught when he was a Franciscan brother several years ago has been sentenced to 10 years' jail.

Details of the assaults, which took place over three years between 1973 and 1976, were given to Judge Anthony Kennedy at yesterday's sitting of Tullamore Circuit Court.

The 57-year-old former Franciscan, now married with five children, pleaded guilty to 16 sample charges selected from an original total of 39, which included 28 counts of indecent assault, nine of buggery and two of attempted buggery.

The accused, who has an address in Co Longford, was refused permission to appeal.

Prosecuting counsel Ms Dara Foynes told the court the accused joined the Franciscan order on leaving school in 1967.

She detailed various schools in which he taught. The eight victims to whom the charges related were all pupils in the schools. Seven of them were present in court yesterday.

In 1982, she said, the accused was referred to a psychiatrist by his order. He refused to co-operate. He also refused to resign from the order and was then dismissed.

He subsequently married and now has five children aged from two to 11 years. The couple separated, and last July his wife obtained a barring order against him.

Ms Foynes said the matter came to light when one of the victims made a complaint.

In the subsequent investigation, 200 people were interviewed and the eight victims all made statements.

As a result, the accused was interviewed at his home and later at a midlands Garda station on February 24th last year, where he denied all charges.

He was charged in the District Court last August, and it was only 10 days ago that he finally agreed to plead guilty.

Ms Foynes read a synopsis of the statements made by the eight victims.

One, who was aged 12 at the time, claimed he was sexually abused three days a week over two years. This victim told his uncle about the abuse in 1994, and both went to another brother in the order, who claimed not to know the whereabouts of the accused at that time.

Another victim told of being warned against the accused. He said he was abused daily. He recalled that while reading a catechism to the class, he was molested by the accused.

He also recalled an assault in the school toilet when he had to defend himself by striking out and knocking the accused man's spectacles off. He went home and told his mother, and his father went to the school to complain.

The accused denied the allegation, and the boy did not return to that school.

Five of the seven victims who attended court went into the witness box to describe how they had been affected by their schoolboy experiences.

Sgt John Flanagan told of visiting the accused in his home in Longford on February 24th last year after receiving a complaint. He arrested him on suspicion of sexual abuse.

When the allegations were put to him at a midlands Garda station, he denied them vehemently and said he would shoot himself rather than do anything like that.

The accused completely denied further allegations, according to Sgt Flanagan. As a result of the assaults, all the victims had been traumatised, some more than others.

Defence counsel, Mr John Phelan SC, said that on his advice the defendant did not wish to give evidence.

He agreed that one needed to be very hard-hearted not to be moved by the evidence of the witnesses, whose feelings he could readily understand.

He said the pain and suffering of these men was partly contributed to by the failure of various agencies to cope with this type of offence. As a result their anger and hurt was now out of control because they did not get help when they needed it.