Ex-priest and serial child rapist has jail time quadrupled

Ex-Priest And Serial Child Rapist Has Jail Time Quadrupled
Defrocked priest Denis Nolan (71) had already been jailed for the sexual abuse of two boys when he was sentenced to 18 months' further imprisonment for the abuse of a third boy
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Paul Neilan

A former priest and serial child rapist who was given an extra 18 months in jail for the abuse of his third victim has had his prison term quadrupled by the Court of Appeal.

Lawyers for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had argued that the net 18-month jail term, which was to be served consecutively to existing sentences, amounted to a "most egregious error".


Defrocked priest Denis Nolan (71), formerly of The Presbytery, Rathnew, Co Wicklow, had already been jailed for the sexual abuse of two boys when he was sentenced to 18 months' further imprisonment for the abuse of a third boy in December last year.

Nolan was the curate in Rathnew from 1998 to 2012, having been ordained in 1979.

In 2014, Nolan was jailed for seven years for systematically sexually abusing a boy in Co Wicklow over a five-year period beginning in 2009 when the boy was 12.

Three years later, Nolan received a prison term of six years for rape and sexual abuse of another young boy, between 2006 and 2012.


In December last year, Nolan pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to three counts of anal rape, one of oral rape and five of sexual assault of the third boy on dates between January 2001 and December 2005.

In sentencing Nolan, Ms Justice Karen O'Connor said that but for the fact Nolan was currently serving a lengthy jail term, she would have imposed a sentence of nine years.

Ms Justice O'Connor handed down a nine-year sentence but then suspended seven-and-a-half years in order to allow for Nolan's rehabilitation upon his release from jail.

The DPP appealed the sentence and today the Court of Appeal increased the 18 months' jail time to six years without any portion suspended.


Paul Murray SC, for the State, submitted that the period of suspension of seven-and-a-half years was "unduly excessive" as there had been three periods of offending involving three different child victims.

Mr Murray said that Nolan's six-year sentence was due to expire in December of this year and that the 18 months were due to be imposed on that sentence's expiry.

Counsel said the crimes involved young victims, the abuse of power over long periods of time, grooming and violence and did not reflect the totality of the offending.

Mr Murray said that if all three cases had been tried together, Nolan "could have been looking at a life sentence or a very high number of years".


'Egregious error'

Counsel said suspending seven-and-a-half years of a nine-year sentence amounted to "the most egregious error" and noted that the complainant had been "plied with alcohol" before force was used.

Michael Bowman SC, for Nolan, said that the suspended portion of the jail time was recognised as being part of an overall sentence total that amounted to 22 years for his client.

Mr Bowman said the trial judge had been "very conscious of the offending involving minors". He said the "overall" sentence of 22 years was "reflective of the totality principle".

Counsel said Nolan was in the "twilight" of his life and had been engaging "as best he can" with authorities and medical professionals about his offending and that the case has "to be looked at in the round".


Mr Bowman added that the suspension fell "within the discretion of the trial judge" regarding what was a "significant term of custody" before it was reduced.

In increasing the sentence on Thursday, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the injured party had been in pain and crying during the rapes.

She said Nolan had told the boy that this was "all part of growing up" and paid the boy after the rapes.

Ms Justice Kennedy said that at the time of his sentencing Nolan was not a man of good character and had sentences of six and seven years imposed on him for the two other cases involving the sexual abuse of boys.

She described Nolan's prolonged offending as "egregious" and that the effects on his victim had been "severe and long-lasting".

Ms Justice Kennedy said the trial judge had not erred in identifying 13 years as a headline sentence but that suspending all but 18 months of a nine-year sentence "did not reflect the overall gravity" of the offending.

She said this amounted to a "substantial departure from the norm regarding rape and sex assaults".

Ms Justice Kennedy said the Court of Appeal would quash the original sentence and impose a six-year jail-term to run consecutively with Nolan's current sentence, which is due to expire this December.

The court heard that the child was 12 when Nolan invited him to earn some money by doing gardening jobs at the parochial house for which Nolan would pay him amounts ranging from €15 to €100. After six to eight weeks, Nolan began asking him about sex and then began molesting and groping the boy.

When the boy was aged 14, Nolan pushed him face down on a bed in the presbytery and raped him.

In another incident, the priest gave the child alcohol and the child woke up on the couch naked from the waist down and feeling sore.

Nolan raped the boy in a car as well as across the table of the parochial house. During one rape, the child described seeing a picture of Jesus on the wall.

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Nolan would give the boy money after each rape.

Ms Justice O'Connor said Nolan had engaged in a “massive breach of trust” when he abused the child, which had “significant grooming” involved. She said Nolan had enticed the child by offering him money for jobs and alcohol.

“The defendant was the parish priest in a position of power, authority and trust. It was a massive breach of trust for a parish priest to offend against a child parishioner in this way," said the judge.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800-77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline, or visit Rape Crisis Help

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