Priest sentenced for copying indecent Internet images

 The following statement was issued by the Bishop of Portsmouth this afternoon Fr Michael O'Kelly pleaded guilty on March 13th to a charge of making indecent images from the Internet and was today sentenced at Reading Crown Court to nine months imprisonment with four and a half months suspended together with a six years extended supervision and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for ten years.. He has been sentenced for a criminal activity and there can be no argument about that. There is a temptation to say that making indecent images from the Internet is somehow remote and impersonal from the children involved and therefore less serious. We must never forget that the children, whose photographs make up the pornographic images available through the Internet, are real children and the images are those of children who are being or have been really abused. These images can only be removed from the Internet with difficulty. To participate in this evil pornographic "industry", even as a viewer, is to participate actively in the abuse of children. It is totally immoral and unacceptable and when the guilty person is a priest, with all the trust and expectations that are invested in him through his sacred office, it is even more unacceptable and reprehensible. Children are among the most precious and, by definition, most vulnerable members of our human family and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure for them an environment in which they can grow up healthily and safely. When we betray them, we betray a particularly sacred trust and responsibility. I bitterly regret the great damage that has been caused by this case. It has been severely injurious to children and, at the same time, it has been a source of great scandal. Many people in the diocese, in its parishes and beyond, have been devastated and deeply hurt by the details that have been revealed. We have to repair that damage and, among our very first priorities, there must be our absolute determination to do our level best to prevent any abuse of children, whether it be actually physical, or remotely so, through the electronic media. On behalf of the Church and the diocese of Portsmouth, I apologise with all my heart for the scandal and hurt caused by the actions of one of our priests and I ask the assistance of all people of goodwill to help us to repair the damage that has been done. This is a time of deeply repentant prayer for us all and, first and foremost, for the children themselves, who are the victims in this case. But also, within our prayer, we must include our brother, Fr Michael O'Kelly, who is now having to pay the price for what he has done. Bishop Crispian Hollis

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