‘Singing priest’ gets 7 years for raping boy

Former ‘singing priest’ Tony Walsh has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years for raping a boy three times, once with a crucifix.

Anthony Walsh, aged 62, committed the offence at a time when the maximum penalty for this offence, then legally termed indecent assault, was two years. But yesterday Judge Elma Sheahan used her discretion to impose consecutive sentences.

The Criminal Law (Rape) Amendment 1990 increased the maximum penalty to 14 years for sexually assaulting a child under the age of 17.

He forced the child to have sex twice, once in the parochial house in his parish and on another occasion in a tunnel under the Phoenix Park. He also used a crucifix to rape the boy.

Walsh told the jury during the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last month he never knew the boy and that he never assaulted him.

Walsh, formerly of North Circular Rd, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to five counts of indecently assaulting the boy on dates between January 1980 and December 1982. The boy was aged between 10 and 13 at the time.

Following a three-day trial the jury returned verdicts of guilty on all counts after an hour of deliberations.

Garda Tara Corrigan told Fiona McGowan, prosecuting, at a sentence hearing earlier this month, that Walsh has 17 previous convictions, from 1995 to 2015, for indecently assaulting young boys and two girls.

Walsh fought two trials and pleaded guilty to the other offences. He is currently serving a sentence and is not due for release until 2021.

Judge Sheahan said yesterday that the rape charges were the most grave and warranted the maximum penalty of two years. She imposed a further 15 months on the two remaining indecent assault charges and ordered that all of the sentences should run consecutively.

Judge Sheahan said she would reduce the total sentence of eight-and-a-half years by one year, taking into account the totality of the prison sentence served and to be served by Walsh. She backdated the sentence to Walsh’s conviction last month, meaning he is now due for release in June 2023.

The judge said Walsh’s abuse of the victim had long-lasting consequences for the man in his childhood and into his adolescence and adulthood which had “plagued his life to date”. She said the accused had violated his position of trust in a grievous way and it was difficult to find any mitigating factors considering that he ran “a full and complete defence of denial”.

“There is no indication that he accepts the jury’s verdict and he has shown no expression of remorse,” said Judge Sheahan.

During the trial Walsh told the jury that his offending in relation to children started in 1980 and continued to 1986. He said a number of the children told their families what was happening and he was called in by the archbishop in 1986.

He said he was sent for six months’ treatment in Britain and on his return home he was made a hospital chaplain. He said he first came to Garda attention in 1995 in relation to one incident. In 1997 he pleaded guilty to offences involving five boys in the period 1980 to 1986.

He was sent to prison for ten years initially and this was reduced to six years on appeal. He was released in 2002. In 2010 he pleaded guilty in two further cases and not guilty in one case, but was convicted by a jury. In 2013 he pleaded guilty to two more cases. Walsh said that in 2015 he was convicted by a jury in relation to the sexual abuse of a girl.

He said that in 2002, four months after his release and “like a bolt out of the blue” he was featured on the TV programme, Cardinal Sins.

The victim told the jury that on the first occasions Walsh had sat him on his knee and pulled him backwards with a gyrating motion.

On further occasions Walsh sat him on his knee and pulled down his trousers and underwear before fondling his genitalia. He also recalled being bent over a sofa by Walsh who then put what he believed was his finger into his anus before putting his penis into him. He said on another day he felt something being put inside his bottom and afterwards saw a crucifix on the ground behind him.

He said on the final occasion Walsh asked him to go for a walk and brought him to Phoenix Park. They went for a walk and into a tunnel where there was a mattress on the ground. Walsh pulled down his underwear and put his penis inside him again.


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