Northern Ireland

Abusing priest Fr Eugene Lewis jailed for four years

A Catholic priest convicted of sexually abusing three young sisters has been jailed for four years.

Father Eugene Lewis, 76, was found guilty of 11 charges of assault between 1963 and 1973. The sisters said the abuse began when they were as young as seven. He had denied the charges.

The abuse took place at their County Fermanagh home.

In May, a jury in Omagh unanimously convicted Lewis, who lived in Dublin before his six-week trial.

The former provincial superior of the Society of Missionaries of Africa was also accused of raping one of the sisters, but since the alleged incident happened in Dublin he could not be tried for the offence in Northern Ireland.

'Miscarriage of justice'

In a statement issued through his solicitor outside court in Belfast on Thursday, the priest maintained his innocence and claimed his conviction was a "miscarriage of justice".

His solicitor Joe McVeigh said the priest intended to "fight to the last drop of his blood to establish his innocence completely".

He added that "many people from all over the world have expressed their outrage at his conviction and that he took great comfort from knowing that he has their support".

During the trial, the jury heard that Lewis had befriended the girls' parents nearly 50 years ago.

Prosecuting QC Ken McMahon said the priest had "wormed his way" into the family through a fellow, but innocent cleric.

Mr McMahon told the jury that although welcomed into their home at anytime, he often chose to call at bedtime or on Saturday bath night.

Lewis, who lived in Dublin, was ordained in 1958.

After his time in a seminary between 1960 and 1970, he went to Dublin and then served on missions overseas.

More recently he has worked in west Belfast.

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