‘Evil’ former monk jailed for indecent assaults on boys

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An 89-year-old “evil” former monk who preyed on three young boys, was today (Thursday) jailed for eight and a half years and put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life after agreeing to serve a further two years on probation.

Judge Desmond Marrinan told Vincent Lewis, formally Bro Ambrose of Our Lady of Bethlehem Monastery in Portglenone, who turns 90 next month, that unlike the many good clergy within the church he had been “an evil monk”.

The Antrim Crown Court judge branded his catalogue of abuse as “horrific... terrible... and dispicable”, telling Lewis the “cruelty meted out was almost unbelievable”.

Judge Marrinan also told Lewis had he been a younger man he would have been jailed for longer for his 57 crimes of indecent assaults, gross indecency and buggery committed against the boys, including two brothers on differing dates, up to 1983.

The former monk, turned printer, who later married and moved to Annagher Road in Coalisland, County Tyrone, who told police he was “not really” attracted to young boys”, abused one youngster while a monk in the County Antrim priory he joined at 16, and then sexually abused the two brothers after leaving holy orders when he was 50.

Judge Marrinan said initially Lewis had for his own “utterly selfish and sociopathic way” treated his first unfortunate victim, “as a play thing to slike his perverted sexual desires and showed him no mercy or consideration”.

This behaviour, added Judge Marrinan, caused his victims, “to lose the precious right to innocence and in the case of two of them, has caused them life long damage and pain which cannot be repaired”.

Judge Marrinan said it was yet another “grim reminder of the incalcuable damage that a paedophile like the defencant can do”.

He also said that in on case the printer of memorial and ‘Mass Cards’, who in 2014 featured in the BBC series ‘True North’, in a show about set dancing, had even used a photographic “dark room for his dark purposes”.

Last week prosecution QC David McDowell said that as Bro Ambrose, Lewis met his first young victim, then aged ten, who did ‘odd jobs’ around the Abbey. This abuse, beginning in 1973, ended in 1978, shortly before he left the monastery, was the more serious.

Mr McDowell said it began with indecent assaults which quickly escalated to buggery. The abuse took place both within the Abbey, including a guest house for those on retreat, and also around the priory’s extensive grounds.

He also revealed the paedophile monk even lied to the youngster telling him his parents knew because he was, “bad, but I am here to look after you” before abusing him, and that what he was doing to him “was right”.

On occasions he plied his victim with alcohol, and when handing over his ‘wage packet’ for the odd jobs he did around the Abbey, Lewis would tell him, “there’s a wee bit extra in there”. The abuse ended when he was 15.

Mr McDowell said Lewis’ second victim was a young teenager whom he once tried to abuse on the shores of Lough Neagh after a swim, while the third was his younger brother, indecently assaulted and abused over a four year period from the age of nine.

Defence QC James Gallagher, said Lewis, married for 40 years, said all of his offending behaviour “finished in its entirety 35 year ago and there has been no other occurance”.

He added, that unlike other similar cases, Lewis’ offending had decreased in seriousness.

“Not only did it cease, but offending decreased in severity,” said Mr Gallagher, and that his offending first occured 45 years ago, and that his first victim got a “remedy of sorts” when paid a “very considerable compensation in respect of these offences”.