File picture: Timothy A. Clary

 

Dussledorf - German Catholic priest Georg Kerkhoff, who is alleged to have been inolved in paedophilia in South Africa, has been sentenced in Germany to six years in jail on 25 counts of sexually abusing boys.

Judge Herbert Luczak, sitting in the Krefeld district court near Dusseldorf, gave Kerkhoff, 56, a harsher sentence than the five and a half years that the prosecutor had sought.

Kerkhoff’s victims in his parishes in the Lower Rhine included his godson, whom he sexually molested for five years from 2001, when the boy was 11.

The charges included aggravated sexual abuse, child abuse and abuse of wards.

The Catholic church in Germany had shipped him to South Africa in 2007 after the allegations against him surfaced in Germany.

Kerkhoff was arrested on similar charges in 2010 in South Africa, where he was a priest in Randburg. He was accused of abusing five children at a First Communion camp in Brits, in 2008.

He was suspended from his position in South Africa, but the criminal case was discontinued in June when he was extradited to Germany by Interpol to face trial.

The Krefeld court heard how he had used alcohol, drugs, sex toys and a parish sauna while molesting boys, according to Express Dusseldorf, a German online publication.

His victims testified in camera to protect their identities.

Kerkhoff did not plead to the charges on the advice of his lawyer, William Helms, who asked the court not to give him a prison sentence.

But Kerkhoff addressed the families of the abused boys from the court, saying he was “ sincerely sorry” and had not intended to hurt anyone.

The priest did not say on Friday whether he would appeal against the sentence.

Stefan Wieland, a spokesman for Kerkhoff’s diocese, Aachen, was quoted by German media as saying: “We very much hope that he faces up to his responsibility and accepts the verdict.”

Not doing so would be “unacceptable”, Wieland said.

According to the media, the German Catholic church, which suspended the priest after the charges were brought against him, was to dismiss Kerkhoff from the priesthood.

Sunday Independent