Priest receives suspended jail sentence

Irish Times
December 21, 2006

A priest who is a former brother yesterday received a three-year suspended jail term for carrying out indecent assaults on a boy in one of Waterford's biggest national schools in the 1980s.

While he was principal of the De La Salle NS on Stephen Street in the city, Fr Con Desmond (71) indecently assaulted a boy, a court heard yesterday. The assaults were carried out on dates unknown in the principal's office at a location unknown between the school and the Cleaboy Road between January 1st, 1982 and June 24th, 1983.

Desmond, currently suspended as a priest, was yesterday placed on a bond of good behaviour for four years, while he will remain on the Sex Offenders Register for five years.

Desmond, parish house Knockerra, Cooraclare, Co Clare, was arrested in connection with the charges in Limerick in December, 2002, the court heard yesterday.

Prosecuting counsel, Michael Delaney BL, said it seemed Desmond had gone to his superiors in 1995 and confessed the assaults to "relieve his conscience".

The court heard how he had thought he was under the seal of confession. However, he was told that if allegations surrounding sexual abuse emerged, he would be reported.

The former brother who later joined the priesthood pleaded guilty to the assaults of the minor over a 17-month period at Waterford Circuit Court on December 5th. Three of the six counts against the priest were carried out by Desmond as he transported the boy in his car to hurling training at the De La Salle training ground, Cleaboy Road, approximately two miles away.

The remaining assaults occurred while the minor was brought into the principal's office when the boy agreed to help stack books and seal envelopes after school, it emerged. "You're a tough boy . . . you'll be captain of the hurling team some day," Desmond would tell the boy, following the assaults, the court learned yesterday. The assaults ended when the boy struck Desmond in the head with a hurley on the way back from training.

Desmond left the Waterford school in 1984 and went to Maynooth to become a priest. He served in the Diocese of Killaloe, as parish priest of Killmaley before moving to Knockerra.

The victim was present in court with a brother when the sentence was handed down by Judge Con Murphy. An undisclosed sum of money was offered by Desmond to the man, who said, in his Victim Impact Statement, that he did not want it. However, Judge Murphy ordered that the payment be made, by way of remorse for his actions.

The priest has been "living as a recluse" since he was arrested, the court heard. A nephew of the guilty man, John Desmond, who has been looking after him since his arrest in 2002, said he made "no effort to contact the family" since the allegations came to light. "He has put himself under house arrest".

Judge Murphy said the assaults were "very grave" in nature. "They are graver still when the perpetrator is in a position of trust vis-a-vis, the victim.

Quoting the Victim Impact Statement, he said the level of social, educational and psychological effects on the victim arose directly from the assaults. The judge said he was as "convinced as he could be" that Desmond would not re-offend.

The mitigating factors included his early admission after arrest, saving the court service time and money, while removing the anxiety caused by the victim having to give evidence.

Diocesan secretary for Killaloe, Fr Gerry Kenny, last night said, "Bishop Walsh had no knowledge of sexual abuse regarding Con Desmond in 1995 . . . When he received information from gardaí in 2002, he suspended him."


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