NSW police lay charges re child-abuse allegedly committed by a priest many years ago

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 9 May 2017

For 34 years until 1995, Father David Joseph Perrett was a priest in the Armidale Catholic diocese, which covers a large area in northern New South Wales. On 5 May 2017, Perrett (now aged 79 and no longer working as a priest) was charged by NSW police with nine counts of indecent assault, allegedly committed on four young boys between 1970 and 1982 while he was working as a priest.

The Armidale diocese comprises two dozen parishes extending along the New England Highway up to the Queensland border.

New England Police Inspector Roger Best said in a media statement that the lengthy investigation by Armidale detectives culminated in an arrest on 4 May 2017

Perrett has been living in Wallangarra, Queensland. Two Armidale detectives went to Queensland, where they obtained an order from the Warwick Magistrates Court to extradite Perrett back to NSW. The detectives then took Perrett, in custody, to NSW.

On 7 May 2017, Perrett faced a bail hearing in Armidale Local Court. Police opposed bail. According to court documents, a sergeant argued that, despite the historical nature of the allegations, Perrett was facing a jail sentence if convicted. The sergeant said there were four alleged victims, and another member of the public had come forward since the matter became public on May 6.

The court granted bail, on condition that while Perrett is awaiting his future court proceedings, he must reside with a family member in Armidale. He must report to police four times a week.

Detectives allege that Perrett indecently assaulted one young boy three times between January 1 and December 31, 1970, at Armidale. He is also accused of assaulting the same young boy in Armidale twice in 1971 and then again in 1972.

Perrett is also alleged to have indecently abused two young boys in Lower Creek, at different times in 1976, and a fourth boy at Guyra in 1982-1983.

New England Detective Inspector Ann Joy told a local journalist that investigations are continuing.

“We would encourage anyone with knowledge of any related incident, whether it is a witness or a complainant, to make contact with police,” she said. “We will investigate those matters thoroughly and as a matter of priority.”

The Armidale Catholic Diocese said in a media statement on 5 May 2017: “The Diocese is aware that a priest who ministered in the Diocese of Armidale from 1961 to 1995, has been arrested in relation to historical child sexual abuse allegations. He has not been in ministry since August 1995."

Some background

In 1996, while he was working as a priest, Father David Joseph Perrett appeared in court in New South Wales, where he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing young boys in north-western NSW. The charges comprised indecent assault of two boys at one parish (Walgett) and sexual assault of one boy at another parish (Guyra).

In Orange District Court on 1 November 1996, Judge Shillington sentenced Perrett to a three-year good-behaviour bond. The annual Australian Catholic Directories continued to list Father Perrett as a priest of the Armidale diocese (“on leave”) until his name was removed in 2001.

Born 13 July 1937, David Joseph Perrett was baptised at the Warialda Catholic Church which was then a part of the Bingara parish (both these places are within the Armidale diocese). Eventually he was recruited to become a priest in the Armidale diocese.

In the 1970s, Father Dave Perrett was located at the Armidale Cathedral and in 1979 his postal address was the bishop’s house.

In the 1980s he was “chaplain” to the diocese’s “John XXIII Centre for Aborigines”. He was later in charge of rural parishes at Guyra and then Walgett, both of which included Aboriginal families.

Another complaint against Perrett was aired on ABC-TV’s “Four Corner” on 11 November 2002. The program featured a written statement by a young Aboriginal, Edward Russell, who said he was sexually assaulted by Father Perrett as a boy at Walgett; however, this complaint never reached a court. Edward Russell (born in 1973) had an intellectual disability and was partially deaf. He had a traumatic adolescence. He went on to be convicted himself of crimes and he eventually committed suicide in jail. To see the "Four Corners" program, click HERE.