Thursday, December 17, 2009

Priest says he has no regrets for supporting sex offender in court

Independent.ie
Priest says he has no regrets for supporting sex offender in court
A priest has insisted he did nothing wrong in joining a group of people who openly supported a convicted sex offender in court prior to the man being sentenced.

Fr Sean Sheehy joined 40 to 50 local men who queued up to shake hands and embrace Danny Foley in the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee yesterday.

Foley, of of Meen, Listowel, Co Kerry, denied the sexual assault charges against him. CCTV footage showed the 35-year-old carrying a young women to the skip area in the town centre car park where she was later found semi-conscious, half-naked and covered in scratches and bruises. Foley told gardai that he “found your wan” in the skip area as he was going to relieve himself.

Two weeks ago a jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict. Yesterday Foley was sentenced to seven years jail and he will be placed on the sex offenders register for life.

Presiding judge Donagh McDonagh criticised Fr Sheehy’s character witness statement during sentencing.

Speaking to Claire Byrne on Newstalk, Fr Sheehy defended his support for the convicted man and described the sentence as “harsh”.

“To hand down a seven year sentence in that kind of situation, it seems to me is a miscarriage of justice,” Fr Sheehy said.

The Castlegregory parish priest says he backed Foley because he knew him to be an “even tempered, placid individual.”

“I just wanted to support him and let him know he wasn’t alone,” Fr Sheehy said. When asked how he felt about supporting a man found guilty of sexual assault, the priest said “the fact is, it was an alleged attack... but the jury convicted him.”

He added that had he known the victim, he would have shook her hand too. “My Christian responsibility was to the person I know,” he said.

Fr Sheehy denied claims that the hand-shaking and hugging of Foley by the group of men was organised. He said he’d been asked to say hello to the defendant by his mother .

“I was simply responding to her invitation, she (Foley’s mother) was completely broken-hearted,” he said.

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