Ex-Burmarrad parish priest gets three years in jail for sexual abuse of minors

Priest found guilty of corruption of minors has three-year prison sentence confirmed on appeal

Donald Bellizzi
Donald Bellizzi

A former parish priest convicted of sexually abusing a teenage boy has had his three-year jail sentence confirmed on appeal.

The erstwhile parish priest of Burmarrad, Fr Donald Bellizzi, had been found guilty in June 2020 of corrupting the boy, a crime for which he was sentenced to three years in prison.

He had been charged with corrupting the boy and another two minors, participating in sexual acts with them and producing or circulating child pornography. He was eventually cleared of the latter charge but found guilty of the first two.

Bellizzi had appealed, arguing amongst other things that the sexual contact had been consensual and that this had a bearing on the charges.

He also argued that corruption of minors must be “examined in a relative context” to the person concerned and not “arbitrarily concluded that a 14 year old… will be corrupted.” Finally, he stated that the punishment meted out to him was excessive.

The abuse had taken place at two retreat homes during the summer of 2010, with the victim being one of five youths who had decided to spend two days in the convent, after expressing a vocation to the priesthood. The priest had taken photographs of the boys as they showered. The victim said he had ended his relationship with the priest at the age of 17.

Madame Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, presiding the Court of Criminal Appeal, ruled that the man’s actions were “deplorable and condemnable” and that the punishment of imprisonment handed down to the paedophile priest was fitting, in view of the damage he had done over several years to the victim.

Lawyer Joe Giglio was defence counsel. Lawyer Stefano Filletti appeared for the victim.