Sentence Reduced for Altar Boys' Molester

Sydney Morning Herald/February 28, 2003
By Ellen Connolly

Sydney, Australia -- A priest jailed for 22 years for molesting boys over two decades had his sentence reduced by four years yesterday because of his otherwise good character, and the stress and stigma he had endured from his convictions.

Vincent Ryan, 64, preyed on 28 altar boys in the Hunter Valley from January 1972 to December 1991.

He was sentenced to six years' jail in 1997 but got a further 16 years at a subsequent trial, which was the subject of his application for leave to appeal.

At his appeal hearing Ryan claimed his good works as a priest were ignored by the sentencing judge, who had described Ryan as a man of unblemished character and reputation.

The Court of Appeal agreed this had not been taken into account; however, it found Ryan had not demonstrated that the sentences were "manifestly excessive."

In reducing his maximum sentence from 22 years to 18 years, the full bench also took into account his excellent conduct in prison, and the stress and stigma stemming from the convictions "and all that flows from them."

"These have understandably struck hard upon the appellant," the president of the court, Justice Keith Mason, said.

He also accepted that Ryan disclosed offences unknown to police.

He said there was also material making it clear that Ryan would be disqualified from pastoral duties upon release so the community would be protected. The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle intends to place him in its Encompass program, an initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, which provides counselling, treatment and ongoing supervision for sex offenders.

Ryan's minimum sentence was reduced from 16 years to 15 years, making him eligible for parole on May 22, 2010.

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