Jail for former student priest who raped boy thirty five years ago

A man who indecently assaulted and raped a 10-year-old boy in Galway city 35 years ago while he was a Redemptorist student priest has been sentenced to five years in prison, with the final two and half years suspended.

Kilkenny native Gerard Cleere (55 ) was also placed on the sex offenders register for life at the sentencing hearing at Galway Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday.

In April of this year Cleere pleaded guilty to indecent assault of the boy on a date unknown between January 1973 and December 30, 1974, but denied the charge of buggery. A jury found him guilty of the latter charge and sentencing was adjourned to this week.

The court heard that the offences first came to light when the injured party made a complaint to gardai on April 3, 2007, and explained that as a young boy he would often play at a ball alley attached to the Redemptorist Monastery at Cluain Mhuire, Mervue, and had been befriended by Cleere who was dressed in “priestly garb”.

Giving evidence Inspector Michael Coppinger further explained that Cleere, who was aged between 18 and 19 at the time and who had been a first-year probationary priest with the Redemptorist order, would watch the boy and his friends playing, praising them for their efforts, and then made a habit of calling to the boy’s family home nearby and became a trusted regular visitor.

After a year Cleere left the order but continued to write to the boy’s family and called to their home unexpectedly the following summer. The boy, who had been alone in the house, had injured his leg and received a groin muscle injury. Cleere offered to examine the boy’s leg, placing him on his lap, before telling the boy to take off his clothes and to go into the front room where the abuse occurred. It was only when a friend rang the doorbell that the boy was able to escape.

Inspector Coppinger told the court that following the complaint an investigation was launched and it was discovered that Cleere had been serving a two year sentence in England imposed in 2004 for the sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy. Describing the details of the previous conviction Inspector Coppinger said that Cleere had offered to give tuition to the British boy and would take him on fishing trips. The court heard how Cleere committed indecent behaviour which included taking photos of the boy in various stages of undress, rubbing him with baby oil, and encouraging the boy to lick cream off his fingers.

Following his release Cleere, who was place on the sex offenders register, had been residing at a halfway house in Leicester, England, as part of the conditions of his probationary supervision period. When Inspector Coppinger met with Cleere he admitted knowing the injured party and his family. Cleere also later wrote a letter outlining his regret, however, Inspector Coppinger said that it stopped short of admitting the buggery.

Extradition proceedings were initiated and Cleere attempted to appeal it but failed. He was then extradited to this jurisdiction on November 6, 2009, and taken into custody.

Inspector Coppinger said that the “trauma” of the extradition proceedings and the subsequent trial has taken its toll on the injured party. He added that the now 46-year-old has had to relive the abuse which led to the break-up of his marriage and had a detrimental effect on a subsequent relationship. The injured party also developed a dependency on alcohol in order to block out what happened to him. A victim impact report stated that the injured party suffers from severe and chronic post traumatic stress symptoms which are consistent with sexual assault.

The court then heard that Cleere had attended a boys’ school in Kilkenny run by the Redemptorist Order before coming to Galway, attending college, and entering into a trial period with the order. However he eventually moved to England where he had various jobs in teaching and tutoring.

A number of reports were handed into court. One report from a UK councillor found that Cleere was a homosexual who had struggled throughout his adult life “to come to terms with his sexuality” and had entered into a brief marriage in the 1990s. Another report by a consultant clinical psychologist found that Cleere was at a “reduced risk of re-offending and he accepts he would be subject to long-term monitoring”.

However, in his report Constable John Norton of the Leicester Public Protection Management Team said that Cleere was “highly manipulative” of parents, guardians, children, and everyone who in comes in contact with him, and that there was still concern.

“What he did was with some degree of preparation and thought. He moved on with his life but the life of the young child changed completely,” said Judge Raymond Groarke, who added: “I have serious concern for his insight and his capacity to repeat this offending.”

Cleere was sentenced to five years in prison for the buggery charge and four years, to run concurrently, for the charge of indecent assault. The final two and half years of the sentence was suspended on condition that Cleere enter into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, and that he never again work with or in the vacinity of children.

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