I was right to shake the hand of jailed sex fiend, says priest
A priest who shook hands with a convicted sex offender in front of his victim said today he stood over his actions and felt there had been a "miscarriage of justice".
Parish priest Fr Sean Sheehy, who was criticised by the judge for giving a character reference for the accused, Danny Foley, insisted that Foley was "an even- tempered, placid individual. There is nothing macho about him".
Despite Foley being given a seven-year sentence, Fr Sheehy said it "seemed to me to be an extremely harsh sentence".
He joined the queue of about 50 people in the court to shake hands with Foley because "I just wanted to support him, just let him know he was not alone."
He said he had no regrets, "none whatsoever".
He would have shaken hands with the victim too, but he did not know her.
The scenes at the court house, where up to 50 people queued to shake the hand of the sex offender have been slammed by the Rape Crisis centre.
Rape Crisis centre chief Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop said today the scene "beggared belief" and she accused the local community of re-victimising the woman who had been assaulted.
Nightclub bouncer Danny Foley (35) was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman, who was discovered by gardai in a semi-conscious state and naked from the waist down beside skip in a car park on June 15, 2008.
Foley from Meen, Listowel, Co Kerry, was sentenced to seven years with the final two suspended by Judge Donagh McDonagh in Tralee Circuit Criminal Court.
As he was brought from the cell to the courtroom up to 50 people, mostly middle-aged and elderly men, queued to shake his hand and hug him tearfully.
The court had heard how Foley denied he had assaulted the woman but CCTV footage showed him carrying her to the skip area.
Today, Ms O'Malley-Dunlop praised the courage of the woman for taking her case through the courts.
The local community, in queing up to shake the perpetrator's hand, had "re-victimised the woman and shown a total disregard for the law of the land which convicted this man", she said.
"It's just unbelievable that a community would treat a woman in this way. She said she felt she was being judged by the community for taking the case and this proves she was".
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief said only one in 10 people reported sexual assaults and rape and this type of reaction was one of the reasons why.
She appealed to anyone disturbed by this case to contact the helpline at 1800 778888.
Judge McDonagh also strongly criticised a character witness statement by a parish priest who said Foley had "always had the height of respect for women".
Fr Sheehy, parish priest of Castlegregory, Co Kerry, told the court he had known Danny Foley since he was a teenager and said there was "not an abusive bone in his body".
However, Judge Donagh McDonagh said Foley's actions on the night of the sex assault "gave the lie" to Fr Sheehy's character statement.
The court had heard how gardai on patrol found the woman semi-conscious, naked from the waist down with Foley "crouching over her". She had extensive bruises and scratches on her body.
Foley had denied the charge.