This priest, Edmund John Haines, was caught with child porn on his phone

An Australian Catholic priest, Edmund John Haines, committed child-sex crimes but he was caught when someone found child porn on the priest's mobile phone, a court has been told. Broken Rites has researched Father Haines's life of crime.

Known by his middle name (as John Haines), he grew up in Geelong, 75km south-west of Melbourne, Australia. John Haines entered the Catholic priesthood via a "backdoor" opportunity in Papua New Guinea, where priests were scarce. He later left PNG under mysterious circumstances and returned to Australia without clear career prospects. Then the Melbourne archdiocese, which was short of priests, accepted him for parish work in its Geelong parishes, thereby giving him access to children. The Melbourne church authorities did not look too closely into (or did not care about) Haines' background.

Haines, 62, pleaded guilty in the Geelong County Court in the state of Victoria to six counts of an indecent act with a child under 16, procurement of a minor for child pornography and possessing child porn.

On 4 November 2008, Haines was sentenced to four years and three months jail. Judge Geoffrey Chettle ordered that Haines serve a non-parole period of two years six months. The judge ordered that Haines be listed as a serious sexual offender.

The crimes, involving two boys, happened in the city of Geelong and two surrounding rural localities between March 2006 and February 2008.

During pre-sentence proceedings in October 2008, the court heard that Haines showered lollies and magazines on one of his 15-year-old victims in 2006.

Soon after, he removed the boy's pants to capture images on a mobile phone and fondle his genitals. Haines also pestered the boy to provide him with topless images of himself.

On another occasion Haines asked the same boy to masturbate on a bed while Haines left the room, later returning to capture images on his mobile phone. After this incident he gave the boy a radio Esky as a gift.

Haines was arrested in February 2008 after giving his old phone, which still contained images of one of the victims, to a parishioner. He was found in possession of 30 child porn images.

A lawyer for the Catholic Church, Brian Bourke, made pre-sentence submissions on behalf of Haines. Burke called four "character" witnesses, each of whom described Haines as a "respected" man who is devoted to the Catholic Church.

One of Haines's supporters, a woman from Haines's parish of Meredith, told the court that Haines was beloved in this small community where he lived at the time, and that reports of his sexual perversions were "not at all the man we know".

But Judge Geoffrey Chettle pointed out that Haines' standing in the community highlighted the extent of the "gross breach of trust".

In his pre-sentence submission on behalf of Haines, Mr Bourke claimed [without proof] that Haines had "no sexual experience at all" before being caught with these images on his mobile phone. He claimed that this "sexual inexperience" was because of a sexual "prohibition" which (Mr Bourke claimed, without proof) is imposed on Catholic priests.

On 24 October 2008, Judge Chettle remanded Haines in custody pending the handing down of the sentence. The jail sentence was delivered on November 4.

How the case began

For 12 years, Fr John Haines led the St Joseph's Catholic parish at Meredith, which is situated near Geelong, Victoria (on the Midland Highway, between Geelong and Ballarat). This parish includes the districts of Winchelsea, Bannockburn, Lethbridge, Inverleigh and Anakie. The parish is within the archdiocese of Melbourne.

John Haines was also chaplain at St Joseph's College, a prominent boys' secondary school in Geelong, which has more than 1300 students

In mid-February 2008, police raided Fr Haines' home, seizing images of children before taking him in for questioning at Colac police station.

Police executed a search warrant after a community member made a complaint to Colac police.

The police investigation was headed by Detective Sergeant Bill Caldow, of Colac Criminal Investigation Unit.

After police charged Haines, he resigned from his parish appointment and he also resigned from his chaplaincy at St Joseph's College.

After the charges, Melbourne archbishop Denis Hart said in a media statement that Fr Haines had been placed on administrative leave.

According to the annual Australian Catholic directories, John Haines was listed from 1997 onwards as the priest in charge of the Meredith parish. In previous editions, he had been listed as an assistant priest at St Margaret's parish, Geelong East.

Broken Rites research

Before the Haines case reached the courts, Broken Rites gathered information about his background. This included some details that Father John Haines had given about his own background on church websites (but the church has removed those webpages since Haines got into trouble).

Edmund John Haines says that he was born on 8 April 1946 and grew up in Geelong. In 1963 he entered the Christian Brothers' Juniorate (for those aspiring to become Brothers) at Bundoora, Melbourne, and remained there for two years.

In 1965, after six months of working in the Victorian Public Service, he joined the Public Service in Papua New Guinea, where he worked in the Department of Public Works in Port Moresby for some years.

According to sources in PNG, Haines lived an unconventional lifestyle there, befriending young males.

In the 1970s, he joined a PNG Catholic religious group, the "Sarto Brothers". This group, named after Cardinal Giuseppe Sarto who became Pope Pius X, comprised one priest and a dozen or so “brothers” and a few "novices", working in one part of PNG. Meanwhile, Haines kept his day job in the public service.

Having gained a church foothold in the Sarto Brothers, Haines developed his contacts with senior clergy in Port Moresby. Eventually, when he was aged 30, the Port Moresby archdiocese agreed to sponsor him as a trainee priest at St Paul's seminary in Sydney. One of the archdiocese's most senior administrators was an Australian who had entered the priesthood via this seminary. This seminary specialised in conducting a short course for "mature age" entrants to the priesthood.

In February 1977, Haines resigned from the PNG Public Service and entered St Paul's seminary. He was ordained a deacon in Port Moresby in December 1979 and was ordained a priest of the Port Moresby archdiocese on 1 June 1980. In February 1981 he was appointed Parish Priest of St Stephen's at Cape Rodney, 7 hours drive from Port Moresby, in the foothills of the Owen Stanley Ranges. In the mid-1980s, he was Parish Priest at Hohola and, also in the 1980s, he was transferred to the cathedral in Port Moresby.

In October 1993, he left the Port Moresby archdiocese and returned to Australia -- as a private citizen. The reason for his departure is unclear but, according to informed sources, he was in some private difficulties in PNG.

In Australia, he began living again in Geelong, his old home town. He soon approached the Melbourne archdiocese and requested a parish posting.

In January 1994, the Melbourne archdiocese appointed him as assistant priest at St Margaret's, East Geelong. In July 1996 he was appointed administrator (acting Parish Priest) of St Joseph's Parish at Meredith and was appointed as the Parish Priest there in January 1999.

Haines remained at Meredith until the police caught up with him in early 2008.