Christian Brother Chris Rafferty in a court trial in Sydney

Christian Brother Christopher Rafferty has worked in Catholic boys' schools in Sydney (including St Mary’s Cathedral College and St Pius X College Chatswood). He faced court in 2016, charged with child-sex offences allegedly committed against a boy at a earlier school (St Patrick's College in Goulburn, in south-western New South Wales, in the 1980s). In court, Judge David Frearson said he believes that Brother Rafferty sexually abused this Goulburn boy. However, the evidence in court was not of a high enough standard to convict Rafferty, the judge said.

Police (from the Goulburn Detectives Office) arrested Rafferty (then aged 63) in Sydney on 4 March 2015. The chief investigator was Senior Detective Dave Turner.

According to court documents (filed in 2015), the offences allegedly were committed between 1984 and 1987 upon one boy who was a student at St Patrick's College, Goulburn. The earliest charge relates to when the boy was aged 13 (and when Brother Rafferty was in his thirties).

The charges against Rafferty included:

  • indecent assault;
  • homosexual intercourse with a pupil; and
  • committing an act of indecency.

At the Goulburn Local Court in 2015, a magistrate committed Rafferty to stand trial, to be conducted by a judge.

The case then went to Sydney's Downing Centre District Court, where Judge David Fearon held a "judge-alone" trial (that is, with no jury) in 2016. In court, Brother Rafferty denied having any sexual contact with the student.

But, at the end of the trial, Judge Frearson said he believes that Brother Rafferty was untruthful. The judge said he believes that Rafferty was a sexual predator regarding this Goulburn boy.

Judge Frearson found Brother Rafferty not guilty of six sexual and indecent offences that were alleged to have been committed against the Gouburn student. He said the evidence against the accused did not meet the high bar required in criminal trials, in which specific incidents must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

“I accept that (the complainant) genuinely believes he was sexually assaulted by the accused at the college, and I accept that at some point he was,” Judge Frearson said. "The Crown has to prove in these cases the particular incident that is said to support the count on the indictment. It is not sufficient for the Crown to establish some sort of sexual contact."

The judge was also critical of the Catholic Church’s response to allegations made by the former Gouburn student, noting that this complainant had spoken out in 1999 but police were not alerted.

In 2012, Brother Rafferty was brought before the Church's "Towards Healing" program and was forced to stop teaching while a months-long investigation took place, the court was told. But when the church's probe failed to uncover wrongdoing by Brother Rafferty, he was able to return to work until his arrest in 2015.

"It is apparent that the allegations were managed in-house, in a way that precluded police scrutiny of them,” Judge Frearson told the court.

“The complainant was clearly diverted, which was not in his interests, ultimately, not in the public interest - but was probably in the interests of the Church.”

Some background

At the time of his arrest in 2015, Brother Chris Rafferty had been working at St Pius X College Chatswood, Sydney.

Announcing its staffing for 2015, St Pius X College Chatswood stated in its "Woodchatta" news bulletin (issue No. 8, dated 3 December 2014):

  • "Br Rafferty continues on staff [for 2015] and will take an active role in managing Huntington House at Terrigal for which the College now has responsibility... Br Rafferty will continue to reside in the Brothers’ community here at the [Chatswood] school."

Another newsletter from St Pius College Chatswood listed Brother Chris Rafferty as:
"Pastoral Care Co-ordinator".

In February 2015, a number of Christian Brothers were still residing in a Brothers' community associated with the St Pius X College campus. However, by then, the staff of St Pius X College Chatswood was almost completely composed of lay teachers (including a lay principal, Mr John Couani), with Brother Chris Rafferty being the only Christian Brother on the school's staff list for 2015.

Brother Rafferty was working and living at the Chatswood campus until the end of February 2015, by which time the school had learned that Brother Rafferty was about to be charged by police regarding the Goulburn school. Brother Rafferty was then transferred to residential accommodation in Victoria Road, Ryde. Thus, by the time Brother Rafferty was officially charged by police on 4 March 2014, he was no longer associated with St Pius X College.

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