Priest jailed for sex assault on three young girls

Irish Independent
February 13, 2002

Three young girls were indecently assaulted by a priest over a four year period, a court was told yesterday.

Fr James Prunty (77) with an address at Cloone, Co Leitrim, but now living in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford was jailed 12 months for the offences.

He was originally charged with 76 counts, but yesterday pleaded guilty to 13 sample charges of indecent assault.

The offences were committed in the town between 1956 and 1959.

Judge Anthony Kennedy at Tullamore Circuit Court heard details of how the accused had indecently assaulted the girls in their own homes, in the parish church where he was a curate and in the confession box in the church.

The case was held in camera and an application by defence counsel that the accused not be named in press reports was rejected by Judge Kennedy.

However, he banned publication of anything likely to identify any of the injured parties.

The judge also refused to allow a solicitor holding a watching brief for Dr Colm O'Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, and two other persons to remain in court during the priest's hearing.

One of the injured parties, speaking on behalf of all three, said the abuse began when she was aged 10 years.

She described how, while attending children's confession in her parish church, the priest would remove the grille and put his hand through the opening, first to tickle her and then under her clothing. As a result, she said she was terrified to go to confession and said the experience had ruined her life, and will continue to do so.

Fr Prunty told the court that he expressed sincere sorrow for his actions and said he was deeply ashamed that he had hurt young people who trusted him. "I have betrayed my vocation and my Church," he said.

After hearing three character witnesses on behalf of the accused and an appeal for leniency, Judge Kennedy said that an aggravating factor in the case was that some of the offences had been committed in a church.



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