Ex-principal of college sentenced for abuse

By Martin Wall
Irish Times
March 2, 2005

Naas - A 58-year-old priest of the Dominican Order and former headmaster of Newbridge College, Co Kildare, was yesterday given a three-year suspended sentence in relation to charges of indecent assault against young boys.

Fr Vincent Mercer had pleaded guilty at Naas Circuit Criminal Court to 13 sample charges of indecent assault against young boys between 1970 and 1977.

Judge Raymond Groarke said the assaults had taken place at a summer camp run by the Dominican Order in Cork and at Newbridge College.

The court heard the assaults had taken place at various locations in the college including the dormitories, Fr Mercer's office and in the infirmary when pupils were ill.

Defence counsel Patrick Gageby SC said the events tended to follow a pattern. Fr Mercer would go to the victims' dormitory at night, put his hand under the covers and feel their genitalia.

Sgt Kevin Lavelle said a criminal investigation had been launched in 2003 when four former students had made complaints. Earlier that year Fr Mercer had been sentenced to six months' imprisonment in relation to the indecent assault of another boy.

Sgt Lavelle said the victims maintain the incidents had had a terrifying effect on them. They had told him that Fr Mercer had "robbed them of their childhood, their sexuality, their trust in people and their religion".

Judge Groarke said Fr Mercer had conducted a "reign of terror" over a seven-year period and the reputation of Newbridge College had been "considerably sullied" by his activities.

Fr Mercer had chosen his victims and locations with care and taken advantage of his students' vulnerabilities.

"There must have been a gross air of intimidation in the first-year dormitories when Fr Mercer was on the prowl," he said.

However he said in mitigation he had to consider that Fr Mercer had fully co-operated with gardai. The judge said Fr Mercer had undergone rehabilitation and treatment in the UK and Ireland since 1995.

Speaking after the sentence, the provincial of the Dominican Order in Ireland, Fr Pat Lucey, said Fr Mercer's movements would be closely supervised. Fr Mercer had no use of a car and no access to children.







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