Ex-priest Who Was Subject of Oscar-nominated Documentary on Sex Abuse Jailed for 22 Months over Child Pornography
By Eoghan Dalton
October 27, 2020
A former priest has been sentenced to prison for 22 months at Waterford Circuit Court for possessing child pornography.
Oliver O’Grady (75) had been found guilty by a jury a fortnight ago, having been charged with one count of possessing a video of an underage girl engaging in a sexual act.
The court heard that he had the video on a date between December 14, 2015 and March 2016, at his residence at St Otteran’s Place, South Parade, Waterford city.
The case arose when a former housemate of O’Grady reported him to gardai after discovering a sexually explicit video on the computer. The offence - which he denied - carries a maximum sentence of five years.
On Tuesday afternoon the defendant addressed the court for the first time having previously provided a written statement for the trial.
O'Grady said he had no knowledge of the video's existence until investigating gardai brought it to his attention, and confirmed he accepted the guilty verdict delivered by the jury. However, he said the video of the child was "far worse" than what the court put forward, as it meant "that the girl had lost her right to be human".
The video, which was shown to the court, was just over a minute in length. One of the witnesses who alerted gardai to the video, Ms Julie Sheehan, told the court that among the other files present on the computer were a will and testament belonging to Mr O'Grady. She said she viewed "five seconds" of the video before stopping: "After that I turned it off, it was enough to know."
As part of the address, which Judge Eugene O'Kelly later described as "bizarre", O'Grady thanked the prosecution and the gardai for their work, his own counsel and the staff at the courthouse and those transporting him from the Midlands prison.
Judge Eugene O’Kelly heard O’Grady has eight previous convictions, including the repeated molestation of two brothers in California over a 10-year period, for which he served seven years in the 1990s. He was later deported back to Ireland. These crimes were the subject of an Academy Award nominated documentary in 2006 titled 'Deliver Us From Evil'.
Detective Garda Brian Morris outlined how on January 30, 2012 O'Grady was convicted of three counts of possession of child pornography, after a laptop he owned was left behind on an Aer Lingus flight. 280,000 images showing children in sexual poses and 1,000 video files of child pornography were discovered on the device.
He also received nine months imprisonment from Cloverhill District Court earlier this year for a failure to notify the court of a change in details, which related to his being placed on the sex offenders register.
As part of its case for leniency, the defence pointed out O’Grady previously received just 3 years in 2012, for possessing approximately over a quarter million images and 1,000 videos of child pornography.
Sean D. Rafter BL said the former priest suffered “two primary shocks” when growing up in Limerick. The first was the death of his father from a heart attack at age seven which left him and his five siblings in difficulty.
The defence added that O’Grady was himself a victim of abuse between the ages of 12 and 14 when he served at his local church. “Unfortunately the cycle perpetuates itself,” Mr Rafter said.
There was “no intervention, no assistance and no accountability” from the Catholic church when Mr O'Grady began to abuse children, he added. “That is the context of this man’s life.”
But State prosecutor Conor O'Doherty BL cited that the video at the centre of the case was at the higher level of child pornography, and the Judge said it amounted to the "exploitation and abuse of a child for the sexual gratification of others".
There was "no willingness" from O'Grady to deal with his problems despite already serving two prison terms, according to O'Kelly.
He handed down a 22-month sentence, backdated to when O'Grady was first arrested and placed in custody on October 26, 2019.
He will also be subject to post-release supervision by the probation and welfare service for two and a half years.