Brother Ambrose leaving the Court of Criminal Appeal after yesterday's hearing.
by Ralph Riegel in The Irish Independent
VICTIMS of a cleric who cannot recall how many boys he abused reacted with horror to a court ruling which could see him out of jail by Christmas.
The Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday dismissed an application by the DPP to increase a prison sentence imposed on Brother Ambrose, otherwise known as James Kelly (77), for indecent assault of young boys in his care.
Kelly was sentenced to five years' imprisonment with four years suspended by Cork Circuit Court Judge Patrick Moran last March.
He had pleaded guilty to two sample counts of sexually abusing young boys in his care at the Brothers of Charity facility at Lota, Cork, during the 1950s and 1960s.
Some 75 other charges which did not proceed were also taken into account.
One of his victims, John Barrett, last night accused the court of betraying abused children.
He said he had contemplated suicide over the lenient treatment of the elderly cleric who, by his own admission, cannot recall the total number of boys he abused while in institutions in Cork, Galway and Britain.
"I'm sick at this news from the Court of Criminal Appeal.
"This man should die in jail. He should never be let out for what he did to children," said Mr Barrett.
He claimed that he almost died while being abused by Br Ambrose 40 years ago.
Among several factors taken into account by the trial judge were Kelly's guilty plea, ill-health and the fact that there had been no further complaints about his behaviour since 1974.
Kelly, who was in court yesterday and walking with the aid of sticks, had previously been jailed when he pleaded guilty to other sexual abuse offences in three locations, some going back almost 50 years.
He could be freed next month but that hinges on the view taken by another Circuit Court judge, who dealt with Kelly regarding separate offences and who had made it a condition that Kelly be moved to a religious house in either England or Belgium.
Due to publicity about his offences, it has not been possible for Kelly to go to either country, the court heard yesterday.
Following the ruling, Cork victim support group, Right of Place, warned that Irish courts are sending a disastrous and potentially dangerous message to paedophiles and their victims.
Last night, another of Br Ambrose's victims slated the Appeal Court ruling as "an insult to victims of paedophiles".
The London-based man who declined to be named sobbed as he explained that Br Ambrose could be released before Christmas despite having subjected him to 10 years of sexual abuse which devastated his subsequent adult life.
Another victim, Bart McCarthy who described Br Ambrose as "an evil monster" said the cleric had tortured him and ruined his life before it had even begun.
At earlier hearings, the courts heard that Kelly entered the Brothers of Charity novitiate at 11 years old.
In statements to gardai, he alleged that he had himself been sexually abused by two Brothers and a classmate.
He also alleged he was abused by a superior while in Cork.
Counsel for the DPP argued yesterday that the suspension of four years of the five-year sentence which was imposed had been unduly lenient.
Rejecting the application, Mr Justice Geoghegan, presiding, said Kelly had served at least three years in prison and the court took the view that was ample punishment given the circumstances of the case.
The court could not find that the trial judge had made any error in principle in suspending four years of the five-year sentence and could not find the sentence was unduly lenient.
Mr Justice Geoghegan noted there was no suggestion that any offence had been committed by Kelly since 1974, although he had worked after that date in institutions where there were young people.
It appeared Kelly had faced up to his situation and had made a resolution some years ago regarding his future conduct.
The view was taken that he had definitely shown remorse.
'Bottomless evil' left abused living 'in hell'
JAMES Kelly, better known as Brother Ambrose, is Ireland's most notorious paedophile having received three different jail terms totalling 45 years for perpetrating what one trial heard was "a bottomless evil".
From the 1950s to the 1960s, Br Ambrose abused boys in Cork, Galway and Britain with one victim admitting the cleric had left them "living in hell".
Br Ambrose first came to public notoriety in 1999, when he received the heaviest sentence ever handed down by an Irish Court for paedophile offences.
His victims including men like John Barrett presumed the 36-year term handed down by Cork Circuit Criminal Court would mean the former Brother of Charity would die in jail.
However, just 18 months later in June 2001, the cleric was back in the headlines as a source of controversy as his sentence was suspended on condition he go to a foreign retirement home and never return to Ireland.
But then the lobbying of victims' rights groups, including a plea to British Home Secretary David Blunkett, resulted in first Britain and then Belgium signalling that Br Ambrose was not wanted.
Addressing Cork Circuit Criminal Court last March, Br John O'Shea, the Irish Superior of the Brothers of Charity Order, admitted the publicity had rendered it almost impossible for the Order to transfer Br Ambrose.
Having just completed a prison term imposed by Galway Circuit Court for paedophile offences at the Order's Connacht base, Br Ambrose then received his third and final sentence for child abuse offences a five-year jail term with four years suspended. Imposing the term, Judge Patrick Moran warned that, taking Br Ambrose's age, health and plea into account, the suspension of four years of the sentence was appropriate. Judge Moran had heard Br Ambrose say he was "full of remorse" for what he had done.
"I am deeply sorry for what I did and the hurt I caused. But I hope that they (the victims) will some day be able to forgive me for what I have done," Br Ambrose told the Court.
Now, after three years behind bars, Br Ambrose suffering from bad hips, a heart condition and renal problems faces living out his days in a country that clearly signalled it no longer wanted him.
Posted by paul at November 05, 2002 11:57 AM