The Catholic Church Does Not Stop Child Sexual Abuse Cases


The Catholic Church has failed in its attempt to permanently suspend a case alleging a priest sexually abused a child in the 1960s.

The New South Wales Supreme Court has dismissed the claim regarding proceedings brought by a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted when she was 14.

The priest who was the alleged perpetrator had worked in the Diocese of North New South Wales.

Internal Church records showed that she knew the priest was a pedophile but did nothing other than move him from parish to parish.

Sexual assault allegations in Lismore

On Friday September 24, 2021, the decision of GLJ v The Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Diocese of Lismore [2021] NSWSC 1204 was made which rejected the request for permanent stay of the Catholic Church.

The proceedings were initiated by a woman who claimed to have been sexually assaulted in 1968, when she was 14 years old. The alleged perpetrator was Father Clarence Anderson, priest of the Diocese of Lismore.

The church had argued that there could not be a fair trial and that the case was “unjustifiably oppressive.” This observation was based on the fact that more than 50 years have passed since the alleged incidents. This had the practical effect of limiting the number of surviving witnesses to testify.

Indeed, Father Anderson himself had passed away along with members of the clergy who were aware of the matter.

However, lawyers specializing in the woman’s sexual assault argued that internal church records showed Anderson’s superiors observed that he had a “sexual interest in children,” which he was prepared to pursue. to act. These observations were recorded as early as 1965.

Rather than bringing the matter to the attention of the police so that it can be accused of having sex with a child, the church had simply moved it from parish to parish.

Priest not charged with sexual assault

The church also had documents detailing complaints from parents of boys being abused by Father Anderson. The documents also revealed that he was suspended from his desk and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment following one of the incidents. Despite this, the church continued to allow Anderson to be surrounded by children.

One of the complaints was made in 1971, when Kyogle’s parish priest – Monsignor Ryan – warned the archbishop of the Brisbane office that he had directly seen Anderson commit an indecent assault on a young boy.

“These conclusions, I arrived at from the observation of him handling boys in the schoolyard and in his car,” he wrote to the archbishop’s office. “From the upper floor of the parsonage, I saw him once with a boy lying under him over the hood of the car, performing what appeared to be sexual movements on the boy.”

Monsignor Ryan also told the Archbishop that he was approached by a father who said the priest abused his son and six others.

Ryan resigned the priest, but Anderson was then “appointed to a parish further up the coast, Macksville in fact, with orders to go to Sydney every month for treatment.”

Permanent stay refused

The New South Wales Supreme Court ruled that the documentary evidence “amply demonstrates that Father Anderson’s misconduct was well known to his superiors long before the event alleged by the complainant”.

Sexual assault lawyers also presented evidence of five other children who claimed to have been abused by Anderson, including four children from Macksville.

One of them recalled that Anderson was known as “the priest of surfing”. Some of the boys were coached by Anderson. Others were wiped out by him while shooting or surfing.

Judge Stephen Campbell concluded that the church had not done enough to prove the “exceptional” circumstances required for a permanent stay of proceedings.

“A trial on the issues in this case would not be a mere masquerade calculated to bring the administration of justice into disrepute among right-thinking people,” he said.

His Honor criticized the submissions made by the child abuse lawyers in support of permanent residence.

The woman told the media: “I want to thank my legal team and in particular the court for carefully reviewing my case. I am so happy that I can continue to present my case and seek justice in court. “

In 2017, the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended that courts abolish deadlines for bringing abuse cases, sparking change across the country, including New South Wales.

Justice Campbell noted that the removal of the limitations could be taken as an indication of Parliament’s intention that “actions in child abuse matters should be permitted despite the passage of even long periods and an inevitable degree of harm. ‘depletion of evidence, provided that a fair, not perfect, trial can be done’.

Sex with accusations of children

Article 66A of Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) states that if you have sex with a child, you may be guilty of an offense.

There are two ways you can combat sex with an accused child. First, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You had sex with the alleged victim; and
  2. The alleged victim was a child

You can be declared “not guilty” if any of the following defenses to sex with a child apply:

  1. Honest and reasonable error: if you are accused of “sexual intercourse with a child between the ages of 14 and 16”, it is a defense that you had an honest and reasonable belief that the alleged victim was above the legal age of consent;
  2. Identification: The Crown cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the offender;

Consent is not a defense because a child cannot consent to any sexual activity. This is different from adult complaints where someone is accused of sex without consent.

An offense of “intercourse with a child between the ages of 14 and 16” carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. There is no standard parole release period (SNPP)

The maximum penalty for “sex with a child between the ages of 10 and 14” carries a maximum prison term of 16 years. The standard period of non-parole is 7 years imprisonment

Looking at the statistics on convictions for sexual assault against children over the past 5 years, it is not surprising to see that over 80% of those found guilty of having had sex with a child have been convicted. to a full-time prison sentence. You can view recent cases where accused have been found “not guilty” of sexual assault charges by click here.

Obviously, jail is very likely for this offense. Recent sentencing changes have removed conditional sentences, further increasing the likelihood of a jail term if you are found guilty or plead guilty.

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