Offaly priest who abused woman he drove to counseling session at Rape Crisis Center avoids jail – The Irish Times

A former Offaly priest who sexually abused a young woman while driving her to the Rape Crisis Center for counseling has avoided jail time by being his older sister’s only caregiver.

Joe Dunne, 81, made multiple indecent assaults on the previously abused young woman after befriending her in hospital. He later asked her for forgiveness before attacking her again.

The woman outlined how meeting Dunne had begun as a young woman in an extremely vulnerable “34 Years of Hell” situation. She said she thought she would be safe since he was a priest.

Dunne of Ballycrystal, Geashill, Co. Offaly pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault on the woman in 1989 in Central Criminal Court. He has no criminal record.

The court heard the case had come to light as a result of a separate investigation in 2019, when Gardaí uncovered letters the injured party had written to their bishop about Dunne years earlier.

Gardai then approached the woman and she told them what had happened.

Mr Judge Paul McDermott commended the woman’s courage in coming forward and facing the applicant’s arduous process.

He said the court and the criminal justice system depended on the courage of people like her to come forward in cases of this nature. He pointed out the devastating effects of the abuse on the injured party, as set out in her Victim Impact Statement.

Mr Justice McDermott said the circumstances of the case were extremely aggravating, noting Dunne had put himself in a position to sexually assault an abused woman. “This is shocking,” the judge said.

He said it was evident from the nature of the attacks that they were carried out on a young woman in an extremely vulnerable position, and whom Dunne knew was in a vulnerable position after she approached him at a difficult time had to get support.

He said he was obliged to consider Dunne’s guilty plea, but said some documents presented to the court showed that he did not fully appreciate the damage done.

The judge also took into account Dunne’s age and health problems when setting a four-year sentence.

He said he also had to consider the impact that Dunne’s incarceration would have on his 94-year-old sister, for whom Dunne is the only caregiver. He said the related report about him was “crass”. He said the woman would be in very grave circumstances if his support were withdrawn.

He said the court faced a dilemma and took the “unusual and extraordinary step” to stay the entire sentence because of the disproportionate impact on Dunne’s sister.

The judge said this would not be easy for him to accomplish, but said that if Dunne served the sentence, he thought it would mean a significant sentence for a third party.

Mr Justice McDermott suspended the entirety of the four-year sentence under strict conditions, including having Dunne present at the parole service and concentrating on crime.

Garda Darren Hughes told prosecutors Conor Devally SC the woman had previously been abused by someone else and had spent time in hospital as she was finding it difficult to get over it.

Dunne had become friends with her in the hospital, although she was aware that she was very vulnerable.

She was scheduled to attend a counseling session that her rural location made it difficult for her to access, and Dunne offered to drive her to the Rape Crisis Centre. During several visits to the Rape Crisis Center, Dunne indecently assaulted the young woman.

The young woman was shocked and thought that no one would believe this behavior from a priest, so she found it difficult to reveal what was happening to her. She eventually persuaded her family to keep Dunne away and made alternative arrangements.

Dunne approached the young woman and begged her forgiveness. She felt that she had no choice but to forgive him and that it would be a sin not to do so. He persuaded her to ride with him and attacked her again in the car.

In her victim statement, she said that meeting Dunne started 34 years of hell.

She outlined the devastating impact the abuse had on her life in terms of relationships, mental health and employment. She feels that she will grow old alone as she cannot trust anyone.

“I hope he will understand how he destroyed me,” she told the court in her statement.

She thanked her advisor and everyone who had supported her. Offaly priest who abused woman he drove to counseling session at Rape Crisis Center avoids jail – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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