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Former Franciscan friar jailed for indecent assault and rape of child in 1980s

A jury found Joseph Keegan guilty on two counts of indecent assault on the boy.

Image: Shutterstock/Aitormmfoto

A FORMER FRANCISCAN friar who took a young boy out of a classroom and raped him at a nearby Church property has been jailed for five years for two counts of indecent assault.

A jury found Joseph Keegan, (79) of Somerville Avenue, Crumlin, Dublin 12, guilty on two counts of indecent assault on the boy, the first for anally raping him on an unknown date in 1986 or 1987 at a Church property in Dublin, and the second for sexually assaulting him after football training at a school in the capital on a date in 1985 or 1986.

He was in his mid-forties when he abused the boy, who was only nine or ten at the time.

The victim, now a man in his forties, told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in May that Keegan took him out of school one day to show him where he lived, and raped him there under the pretext of taking his temperature.

“He said I seemed to be ‘burning up’ … He put me on the bed face first, pushed me or bent me over the bed. He pulled down my tracksuit bottoms and my undies. Something went into my bum. It was an awful pain, I didn’t know what it was – like stabbing, like a knife went into me,” he said.

“I was hoping that whatever was happening would stop. There was a monk there with the brown and gold [clothing]. A real old monk. When he came in whatever happened stopped but when it was in there it happened again, the stabbing feeling in my bum.”

“I just remember when it was finished he was saying I’d be okay. I felt I was screaming but not screaming out loud, I just wanted to get my clothes back on.”

“I was afraid to check. There was something trickling from the back of my bum and inside my leg. I can’t remember too much about getting out.”

On an earlier occasion, the boy was was ‘messing” with another boy in a darkened corridor at the school after football training.

He said Keegan grabbed him, put him on a table and held him down.

“My tracksuit bottoms were pulled down. He was rummaging around. I didn’t know at the time, now I believe he was masturbating. I was looking the other way. I kept turning my head back… I felt afraid of the strength he was using. There was wet on me. I thought he was after pissing on me.”

“I was afraid my football friends would see the wet on me so I was wiping it off before I got there,” the man said.

Giving evidence at a sentence hearing earlier this month, a garda detective told Fionnualla O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that Keegan was sentenced to six years in jail in 1999 for gross indecency over the sexual abuse of five boys while he ran a football club between 1977 and 1982.

He said Keegan had not come to the adverse attention of gardaí since his release.

Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing, BL, said he had argued from the beginning of the case that there was a question over Keegan’s fitness to stand trial because of his age, multiple serious medical conditions and frailty.

He told the court Keegan had suffered a stroke when he was arrested for questioning, collapsed in a Garda station and had to be brought to hospital.

He said his client had the regular help of neighbours and carers, but most of the time lived a solitary life, with a pet bird as his only companion.

Joseph Keegan’s situation was unusual, Judge Pauline Codd said, because so long had passed since he was released following a lengthy sentence for similar crimes

“He is very frail and immobile, so the practical reality of him reoffending is unlikely,” she said. “Of course at the core of rehabilitation is an acceptance of guilt, and there’s no admission here.”

She said aggravating factors included the breach of trust, the nature of the assaults, as well as “grooming building to the abuse and subsequent psychological pressure on the victim”.

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There was also the young age of the victim compared to Keegan at the time to consider, and Keegan’s previous convictions for similar offending.

“His innocence was destroyed by this. It was an attack on his bodily integrity and dignity,” she said.

“There has been no expression of remorse.”

She accepted that Keegan was at a low risk of reoffending due to his age and frailty, and might have benefited from the principle of totality if he had been charged with these offences in 1999, when he was first convicted.

Judge Codd sentenced him to six years in prison for the anal rape, and four years for the sexual assault, and said he would be allowed to serve them concurrently because of his age and frailty.

She suspended the final year of both, for an effective sentence of five years imprisonment.

Keegan, who was seated in a wheelchair throughout the proceedings, had to be woken by his solicitor when he called to enter into the bond.

“Perhaps if the court would allow him to enter into the bond before the governor?” Ó Dúnlaing said.

This was granted by Judge Codd, and Keegan was taken into custody.

About the author:

Stephen Bourke

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