A Maronite Catholic priest is jailed in Sydney regarding a 2005 alleged assault

  • Article updated on 10 October 2016

Often, people remain silent for many years before exercising their right to contact the police regarding allegations of church sexual abuse but in January 2014 Sydney police charged a Catholic priest regarding an incident that allegedly occurred relatively recently — in 2005 (an alleged offence against a 15-year-old boy). The priest belongs to the Maronite Catholic Church under the St Maroun diocese which has several parishes in Sydney. On 4 October 2016 at Sydney's Campbelltown District Court, the priest was jailed (at the age of 40) after being convicted of indecently assaulting the 15-year-old boy.

The original police investigation was conducted by the Burwood Detectives Office in Sydney's inner-west. The case went through preliminary procedures in 2014 with a Local Court magistrate, who eventually ordered the priest to face a trial in the NSW District Court. The District Court case was heard in 2016 by Judge Penelope Wass — case number 2014/00028426. For legal reasons, the court did not release the priest's name and he was listed only by his initials.

The court was told that in 2005, the clergyman was based at a Maronite parish in Sydney and was a close friend of the then 15-year-old victim's family. After a church celebration one night, the victim's mother asked the then 29-year-old clergyman to give her son a lift home. The victim fell asleep in the car. He awoke to find his genitals being rubbed by the man.

In court, the priest pleaded not guilty to indecently assaulting the victim but was found guilty by a jury. Judge Wass sentenced him to a minimum jail term of 12 months.

The priest's defence barrister told the court that the man is appealing against the conviction. (The appeal could be heard in 2017.)

During conducting the sentencing,, Judge Wass said that resisting the priest's advances was too difficult for the vulnerable victim. The judge quoted the victim who had told the court: "It was like saying no to God".

The judge said the offender had shown no remorse or insight into his actions. Despite the jury's guilty verdict, the offender had continued to deny any wrongdoing, the judge said.

Judge Wass said the priest's actions were "opportunistic" and showed "absolute disregard" for the young boy entrusted to his care. "He did so, having taken parental responsibility for him.".