Former monk Vincent Lewis has jail term increased for abusing young boys

Vincent Lewis from Coalisland
Vincent Lewis from Coalisland
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A 91-year-old former monk jailed for sexually abusing three boys is to have his sentence increased by 18 months, the Court of Appeal ruled on Friday.

Judges backed claims that the 10-and-a-half-year term originally imposed on Vincent Lewis for subjecting his young victims to a “shocking” series of attacks was unduly lenient.

Ordering him to serve 12 years instead, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan highlighted the damage caused by the decade-long campaign of molestation.

Sir Declan said: “The effect on the victims was horrendous.”

Lewis, formerly Brother Ambrose of Our Lady of Bethlehem Monastery in Portglenone, Co Antrim, pleaded guilty to more than 50 offences committed between 1973 and 1983.

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

Some of the attacks were carried out at Portglenone Abbey, where his principal responsibility involved operating the printing press.

He also took one victim to isolated woods along the river where he had prepared a private place to carry out further assaults.

The scale of Lewis’s offending led to him being branded “an evil monk”.

In February 2018 he was sentenced to nine years and six months in custody, with a further year on probation.

Lawyers for the Director of Public Prosecutions challenged the term imposed, arguing that it was too lenient.

They contend that too much discount was given for Lewis’s age, and that the starting point in the sentencing process had been too low.

During the appeal it emerged that a further complaint has been received in connection with the former monk.

Judges were also told he made financial contributions towards compensation paid out to victims.

Their ruling was delivered in his absence, with lawyers confirming he had not wanted to be brought from jail.

Lewis is the only offender aged over 90 in Northern Ireland’s prison population, the court heard.

He was said to spend his time attending the exercise yard in the morning, playing cards in the evening and regularly attending church services.

Based on the extent of his sexual offending, Sir Declan held that a starting point in excess of 20 years was appropriate before allowing discount for his age and other mitigating factors.

He confirmed: “We are satisfied that the sentence imposed was unduly lenient and we substitute for the commensurate sentence of 10 years six months a sentence of 12 years.”

No basis was established for including probation as part of the term.

Sir Declan added: “Because of this man’s age and his withdrawal from community activity no rehabilitative programme directed to his offending was either required or likely to be put in place.”