Background article: Father David O'Hearn is in jail and now he faces more charges

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 7 March 2018

During the 1980s and 1890s, Father David Anthony O’Hearn worked in parishes in the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese, north of Sydney. Now he is in jail where he is serving a minimum nine years’ jail for sexual offences against young boys. On 6 March 2018, police visited the jail to charge O'Hearn (now aged 56) with additional offences after one more alleged victim had spoken to detectives.


Police began investigating O'Hearn in 2008 and they laid the first charges against him in a magistrates court in 2009. A preliminary ("committal") hearing in June 2010 resulted in him being ordered to stand trial, with a judge, in the NSW District Court.

A series of separate juries from 2012 to 2016 found O'Hearn guilty of offences against six young boys in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese. The offences included sexual intercourse, indecent assault and inciting a minor to commit an indecent act. Victims ranged from nine to 13.

During the series of jury trials, the NSW District Court imposed an order prohibiting the media from publishing O'Hearn's name until the final jury would finish its work. The trials were delayed somewhat when O'Hearn launched appeal proceedings.

In December 2012, after the guilty verdict in the first trial, O'Hearn was remanded in jail to await the jury trials relating to the remaining victims.

On 20 May 2016, after the final jury trial was finished, Judge Richard Cogswell lifted the name-suppression order.

O'Hearn was found guilty of a total of 44 offences against six boys and was sentenced in August 2016 to 18 years’ jail, with a minimum sentence of nine years.

Broken Rites research

Father David Anthony O'Hearn was born on 28 April 1961.

Broken Rites has researched Father O'Hearn in the annual editions of the Australian Catholic directories. His annual entries all list him as a priest of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.

Before being ordained, David O'Hearn was a deacon at Waratah parish in 1985 and at Singleton parish in 1986.

He was ordained in late 1986. He then became an assistant priest at Muswellbrook in 1987.

In the 1990 directory Fr David O'Hearn was listed as an assistant priest at St Joseph's parish in Cessnock, where the priest in charge was another child-sex criminal, Father Vincent Gerard Ryan.

In the early 1990s, Father O'Hearn was listed as the priest in charge firstly at the Windale parish (St Pius X) and later at the Toronto parish (St Joseph's).

In the directories from 1995 to 1999, he was listed as being in charge of the Rutherford parish (St Paul's).

In the 2000 edition of the annual Directory of Australian Catholic Clergy, he was "a priest in residence" at St Columban's/Christ the King, 58 Church Street, Mayfield West. Also listed at that address was Father William (Bill) Burston, who was the Vicar-General of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.

In the directories for 2001 and 2003, David O'Hearn was listed as the acting parish priest at St Patrick's, Swansea.

In the 2004 directory, he was listed as the Parish Priest of St Michael's, Nelson Bay.

Police began investigating O'Hearn in 2008 and they laid the first charges against him in court in 2009. The July 2011 edition of the annual Australian Catholic Directory stated that Fr O'Hearn is "on Leave" and it gave his postal address in 2011 as care of the Maitland-Newcastle diocesan office. When Broken Rites checked the Nelson Bay parish website on 19 March 2012, O'Hearn was still listed officially on that website as the Parish Priest there (but with another priest acting as the parish administrator).

  • Police began investigating David Anthony O'Hearn in 2008. The police charged him in court in 2009. To see another Broken Rites article about this backgound, click HERE.