Priest who preyed on girl set free to preach about sexual offences

Father Dominic Muli Nzioka will spread this “gospel” at least once a month, on a Sunday.

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What you need to know:

  • The judge sent the clergyman on the mission after confirming the guilty verdict handed to down by a lower court for the offence of committing an indecent act with a 16-year-old girl who was a member of the youth group at his church. 

The High Court in Mombasa has sent a Catholic priest on a rare three-year mission - to educate congregants about the Sexual Offences Act - after finding him guilty of an offence under the same law.

Father Dominic Muli Nzioka will spread the "gospel" at least once a month on a Sunday.

This task will be closely monitored by the parish head and a probation officer, who will prepare a report for the court.

Justice Anne Ong'iinjo sent the priest on the mission despite upholding a lower court's guilty verdict on a charge of indecent assault on a 16-year-old girl who was a member of his church's youth group.

Principal Magistrate Nelly Kariuki of the Shanzu Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court had on June 22 last year sentenced him to seven years in prison for the crime against the minor.

However, on appeal, Justice Ong'injo decided to vary the sentence despite acknowledging that the magistrate's court had correctly found the preist guilty of the offence committed on September 28, 2020, at Mtopanga in Kisauni Sub-county.

“The appellant, having breached the Covid-19 protocols, and the church regulations, that children are not allowed to enter the parish house, as well as defying the victim’s mother not to interact with her daughter, makes this court believe that the trial magistrate was proper in finding that the prosecution’s evidence had been proved beyond reasonable doubt,” the judge said.

“However, this court sets aside the seven-year jail term and substitutes thereof three years under (the) supervision of a probation officer. While on probation, the appellant is hereby ordered to sensitise his congregants about the Sexual Offences Act at least one Sunday in a month,” she added.

According to the court records, it was the persistent phone calls made by the minor's mother to Father Dominic on the fateful day that saved the situation by persuading him to let the minor go home. 

The court heard that on September 28, 2020, the priest sent the minor a text message on her mobile phone instructing her to go to church. 

When she arrived, she went to one of the parish houses. 
A man who was with Father Dominic left, leaving the two of them alone. 

“Fr Dominic had alcohol in a cup of coffee, which he gave me to drink. He then touched me inappropriately,” the minor testified.

“If my mother had not called, Fr Dominic could have done more than touch me inappropriately. I did not know what he intended to do.”

The minor also told the court that she had previously argued with her mother about the priest. 

She said that her mother disapproved of her constant conversations with the priest.

“I have no reason to falsely accuse Fr Dominic. I was not comfortable with his actions towards me,” she told the court.

The minor's mother said that she called the priest after her two other children informed her that the minor was not at home and that she had not informed her siblings of her whereabouts.

“I tried calling Fr Dominic multiple times, but he did not answer my calls,” she stated, adding that she sought assistance from a friend to locate the minor.

The mother told the court that after the minor told her about the incident, she called the police and took the minor to the hospital the next day. 

She also said that she had a meeting with the bishop about the matter.

“I had warned the appellant against continuing to chat with my daughter after learning that he had visited my house twice without my knowledge or consent,” she added.

A priest who testified in court said that minors are not allowed to enter the parish house unless they are in a group.

Fr Dominic denied the offence and said that the minor, who was an altar server and part of the Mwana Maria Youth, called and asked if she could meet him, which he agreed to.

The complainant admitted to offering the minor refreshments and explained that she had expressed difficulties with online classes and academic life during the Covid-19 period.

“I assured her that the government would reopen schools and she will proceed from where she left,” he told the court.

He also admitted that he spent at least two hours with the minor, had other conversations with her both individually and in a group, and that she was not the only one who visited the parish house.

The priest denied any missed phone calls from the victim's mother.

“I was then arrested and placed in cells without being told the nature of the indecent act I was being accused of,” he said, adding that he learnt of what he was being accused of in court.

Fr Dominic also admitted that the minor's mother had called him earlier, wondering why the victim was close to him. 

He said he told her that he was a counsellor and that it was the minor's choice as she felt free to talk to him about her personal problems.

But Justice Ong'injo disagreed, saying the priest should have stopped his contact with the minor after being warned by the mother.