Waterford sex abuser sports coach jailed for 14 years

A sports coach has been sentenced to 14 years and two months in prison for abusing 10 teenage boys in the 1980s.
Waterford sex abuser sports coach jailed for 14 years

Accountant Bill Kenneally, of Laragh, Summerville, Waterford, pleaded guilty in December 2015 to 10 sample counts from a total of 74 counts of indecent assault on 10 boys, aged 13 to 16, over a four-year period between October 1984 and December 1987.

On the second day of a two-day sentencing hearing at Waterford Circuit Court, the former election tallyman was handed down 17 months in prison on each of the 10 sample counts.

The court heard that gardaí were aware of an informal complaint in 1987, but that the current prosecution came from victims going to gardaí in 2012. In 1987, the ‘W’ family did not make a formal complaint and gardaí could not prosecute. Kenneally was advised to give up coaching and seek treatment.

The offences before the court were brought to light in 2012 when one of the victims, Jason Clancy, came forward. The nine other men later came forward when contacted by gardaí.

While delivering sentencing, Judge Eugene O’Kelly said Kenneally’s actions bore all the hallmarks of the systematic behaviour of predatory paedophiles, in that the abuse suffered by each teen was very similar in nature. The offences took place at his family home, in his car, and at various woodlands and lay-bys.

His modus operandi involved taking on the guise of a coach or a mentor. He groomed the boys for sexual exploitation. He had money at a time when people were struggling, and spent this on cars, which had an impression on the boys. He used copious amounts of alcohol to disarm his victims. He gave them money initially as a gift, but then this turned into a debt that had to be paid back. The abuse was similar for most of the boys.

Each victim had suffered devastating psychological consequences. The six victim impact statements were harrowing.

The court heard one of the boys was abused on the morning he sat his English exam in the Inter Cert. They were all robbed of a carefree and innocent adolescence to satisfy a paedophile’s addictions, the judge said.

The complainants did not wish to hear Kenneally’s apology and left the court.

Judge O’Kelly said that he tried to take into account how the victims’ lives were blighted by Kenneally. However, for indecent assault offences before 1991, there are very strict sentencing guidelines, with the maximum sentence being two years in prison. Since then, the charge referred to as sexual assault carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment, reflecting “contemporary society’s repugnance of abuse”.

Aggravating factors included the nature of the abuse; effect on the victims; and intensity of the abuse.

Kenneally gained the boys’ trust. He provided them with fast food, alcohol, gifts, and money. He brought them for trips in his car. This was all manipulative grooming for the abuse which was to follow.

Another factor was the group participation of the boys in creating a perception that what was happening was the norm.

The use of paraphernalia for restraint and the use of alcohol to disarm his victims and facilitate the commission of an offence were other factors.

The final aggravating factor was the payment of money to the boys, which was between £7 and £67, and was a form of bribery.

Judge O’Kelly said a significant mitigating factor was the accused’s guilty plea. Kenneally has no previous convictions and has not come under adverse notice of the gardaí since.

With treatment, Kenneally has overcome his desires and has made a “remarkable rehabilitation”, the court heard.

Judge O’Kelly took seven months off each of the two- year sentences. He said the suffering of each of the 10 victims should be recognised by the court. The 10 17-month sentences are to run consecutively.

‘There is no apology that will ever take away the hurt’

“His counsel stood up to start an apology. Myself, Colin, Jason, and Barry left. There is no apology that will ever take away the hurt, the pain, the devastation.”

Kevin Keating, one of at least 10 victims of Waterford man Bill Kenneally — they believe there are at least 20 more — had just hours earlier watched the serial sex abuser being sentenced to 14 years and two months behind bars before he made that comment.

Kevin Keating
Kevin Keating

He described yesterday as a “good day for justice”. Both he and fellow victim Colin Power admitted they were actually not expecting the sentence to be quite so long. They certainly weren’t complaining, given the prolonged damage the campaign of abuse they suffered has had on their lives.

Both men were just 13 when Kenneally began grooming them, with the abuse beginning soon after. Their age was not the only common theme.

“I think the judge said today his modus operandi was the same with everybody,” said Colin. “He gave us alcohol, he gave us cigarettes, he gave us money. He gave us football shirts, all that kind of thing. I still ask myself how I let myself get into that situation, but I did and it happened.”

Kevin recalls: “He would have a boot full of cider. He had cigarettes. He knew I enjoyed watching American football and liked the New York Giants. He got me a magazine from America about the New York Giants Superbowl. This is how good this man was. It was not that he was trying this or that. He knew exactly what each boy liked and did not like.”

For Colin, the abuse would continue for three years.

Colin Power
Colin Power

“The only reason it stopped when it did for me was I did an awful Junior Cert. I was sent off to boarding school for the last two years of school,” he said.

However, by then the damage was done. “The thing that really sticks out to me is that, we all lost contact when we were 16, 17, and 18,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline.

“When I listen to their victim impact statements [the other victims] and their stories, the similarities are frightening. There is a lot of abuse of alcohol. There is a lot of different addictions, there is depression… Very, very similar.”

The abuse was not carried out in isolation — both men recalled that Kenneally would assault them in groups or in front of each other.

“He also took polaroid photos of people,” said Colin. “He has stated he destroyed them in 1987. But he never told anybody he destroyed them then. The picture was just another element to add fear, a guarantee he would expose that.”

Jason Clancy
Jason Clancy

Kevin recalled how, every night, he used to think of different ways to walk to school so he could stay safe the following day.

“I was terrified he would come again in his car. At 13, lying in bed at night and you can’t tell your parents what is happening, thinking that they don’t understand or I might be lying. He reacted to one of the boys when the boy freaked out. He said: ‘What are you doing, stop, this is normal, you are over-reacting.’

“A monster has been taken off the streets that could cause and did cause harm to us 10 but we know there is more in there.”

Barry Murphy
Barry Murphy

Colin told how he got more and more worried as they moved closer to the court case.

“We were told that if we didn’t waive the right to remain anonymous, that he wouldn’t go on the sex offenders register because it was a historical case.

“Originally two of us discussed this at length because we both had kids and we basically decided we could not leave it on our conscience that he wasn’t named because people would not know what he had done and was capable of doing and could do it again. So we were put in the position that we had to sit down with our kids.

“It is surreal for me, all this interest and press — and it can’t be forgotten that it is not just about me and Kevin and Jason and Barry and all the other guys. It is also about our families, our wives and spouses and children. They have all suffered. Not just for the last two years but years before that.”

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