Paedophile priest has three years of sentence
A 62-year-old paedophile priest was released from a Wexford court yesterday after a judge suspended three years of a four-year sentence imposed on him for indecent assault and gross indecency against teenage boys.
Father Donal Collins, a former school principal, sighed deeply and bowed his head when Judge Olive Buttimer announced her ruling, a year after sentencing him to four years for the incidents of sexual abuse which took place in the 1970s and 1980s.
The offences happened at the school with the exception of one of gross indecency which took place in a guest house in Ballsbridge where the priest was staying with a group of students.
The retired priest's counsel, Mr Erwin Mill-Arden, told Wexford Circuit Court that after 12 months in the Curragh prison Father Collins appeared to be a truly penitent man.
Asked how he felt after being freed, Father Collins, replied: "I am full of emotion. I have nothing else to say."
Father Collins pleaded guilty a year ago to five charges of indecent assault and four of gross indecency against the boys, aged 14 and 15.
The abuse followed a pattern in that the priest invited his victims separately to his living room and initiated the assaults by asking to see if the boys were "developing normally".
Gardai had given evidence that the priest performed acts of masturbation on the boys and asked them to do the same on him. He also performed oral sex on two of his victims.
Before he was originally sentenced, the court was told he had not used violence, but there was manipulative behaviour to entice the boys to go along with what he wanted to do.
In the case of one boy, there was a threat that if he told anyone about the sexual acts he would expelled from the school.
The court was told yesterday that while in prison Father Collins had made a significant contribution to the education of inmates less fortunate than himself.
He was repentant and anxious to make up for the wrongs he had done, his counsel said.
The judge was told that Father Collins was in poor health, suffering from heart problems, a muscular wasting condition and deteriorating eyesight. He had received treatment for his sexual problems at Granada House, run by the St John of God Brothers in Dublin.
"He presents as a man of considerable ill-health for his age," said his counsel, adding there was no danger of him re-offending.
Father Collins appeared in some discomfort in court and winced in apparent pain as he sat down.
Mr Mill-Arden said the effects of his incarceration had been salutary on Father Collins and had met three key issues: the amelioration of the prisoner, the deterrent and the punishment element had all been satisfied.
"No great benefit accrues by the continuance of custody at this time," Mr Mill-Arden said.
Announcing her ruling, Judge Buttimer said that by pleading guilty the priest had paid heed to the feelings of his victims. She was also taking into account his age and health.
The judge said she had received an excellent report from the governor of the Curragh on the educational work the priest had carried out there.
He was bound over in the sum of (pounds) 50 to keep the peace for three years.
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