Former monk who sexually abused three boys should be given longer prison sentence, Court of Appeal hears

87-year old Vincent Lewis from Coalisland at a previous hearing at Antrim Magistrate Court. Picture by Mark Jamieson

A 90-year-old former monk who sexually abused three boys should be given a longer prison sentence, the Court of Appeal heard today.

Lawyers for the Public Prosecution Service argued that the nine-and-a-half-year jail term imposed on Vincent Lewis was unduly lenient.

Adjourning the case, senior judges requested more information on the age profile of Northern Ireland's prison population and arrangements for dealing with any such elderly inmates.

Lewis, formerly Brother Ambrose of Our Lady of Bethlehem Monastery in Portglenone, Co Antrim, pleaded guilty to more than 50 offences committed over a 10-year period up to 1983.

He abused one boy while still a monk, and targeted the others after marrying and moving to Annagher Road in Coalisland, Co Tyrone.

Following conviction the trial judge said he had inflicted lifelong damage and pain on victims who had lost their right to innocence.

Unlike the many good clergy within the Church, Lewis was branded "an evil monk".

Earlier this year he was jailed and ordered to complete a further year on probation. But prosecutors have now launched a bid to have the sentence increased.

They contend that too much discount was given because of his age.

Escorted into court by prison guards, Lewis sat with his head bowed and eyes closed for much of the hearing.

Appeal judges requested to know if there are other prisoners of a similar age being held in Northern Ireland and, if so, how they are dealt with.

At one point Lord Justice Stephens also asked generally: "What arrangements are made by the Prison Service for someone coming near the end of his life?"

Following further submissions they decided to defer the challenge so that details can be provided.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "We want to get information about the age and profile of the prison population, an understanding of the arrangements within the prison for dealing with old prisoners, and we want to get information about how this prisoner is actually being dealt with."

The case was listed for a further hearing in May.

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