Boys were assaulted on their naked bottoms. Priest jailed

By a Broken Rites researcher 

For years, the Catholic Church has been harbouring a prominent Australian priest, Father Julian Fox, who indecently assaulted vulnerable schoolboys on their naked bottoms. The boys, silenced by the holy image of the priesthood, later found that their lives were damaged by this priestly breach of trust. Some of them, in adulthood, eventually contacted the police but the church authorities transferred Father Fox overseas, out of the reach of the Australian police. The police finally got Fox back to Australia, where they charged him with multiple incidents of buggery and indecent assault committed at two Melbourne schools between 1976 and 1985. In Melbourne in 2015 Fox was sentenced to jail for the indecent assaults but his defence lawyer told the court that, despite now being a convicted criminal, Father Fox is still officially a Catholic priest and still has the support of the church authorities.

Father Julian Benedict Fox (born 20 July 1945) has spent his whole priestly career as a member of a Catholic religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, which conducted boys' schools around Australia. He rose to become a vice-principal and a principal of two Melbourne schools, where (according to court evidence) he was in charge of punishing boys for such misdemeanours as "a football hitting a window, throwing rubbish, running in hallways" or "boys talking in the boarders' dormitory after lights-out". During these punishments, Father Fox committed his sexual assaults.

Regarding the crimes for which he was jailed, the court was told that:

  • In punishing a boy in his office, Father Fox would make the boy lean over a desk or chair, to have his bottom thrashed.
  • Fox's "weapon of choice" was a shortened pool cue (a rod used for hitting balls on a billiard table). He would whack the rod against (or, in some cases, up) a boy's bare bottom, causing intense pain (and perhaps bleeding) in the anus, perhaps resulting later in blood over the boy's pyjamas and bed-sheets.
  • Sometimes, Fox would insert his finger, painfully, into a boy's anus.
  • Police originally alleged that, in some instances, Fox inserted his penis into a boy's bottom, although eventually Fox was convicted of indecent assault, instead of the more serious crime of buggery.

Background

Julian Benedict Fox was born in Tasmania, where he became a pupil at a Salesian school (now called Dominic College, Glenorchy, Hobart) and later at a Salesian boarding school in Melbourne. Thus he was introduced to the Salesian culture and was recruited to begin training for the Salesian priesthood.

Fox worked as a teacher or administrator in several Salesian schools:

  • Savio College, Glenorchy, Hobart (now called Dominic College), 1967-69, followed by theological studies;
  • Salesian College, "Rupertswood", at Sunbury in Melbourne's outer north-west in 1976-83;
  • St Joseph's Salesian College, Ferntree Gully, in Melbourne's outer-east in 1983-1986; and
  • "Rupertswood" college again in 1987-1988.

In 1988, for the next five years, he was appointed as the head of the Salesian Order in Australia, supervising Salesian schools in several States. In 1994-1998 he was at St Joseph's College, Ferntree Gully, again.

Meanwhile, some former Salesian students were feeling hurt about how they were abused by various Salesians during their school-years and how this breach of trust disrupted their teenage years and their later life. Soon, it became known that any Salesian victim could exercise his right to have a private chat with detectives of the Victoria Police in Melbourne instead of merely "tipping off" the offending organisation, the Catholic Church. Thus, during the 1990s, the police successfully charged several Salesian priests and brothers in Australian criminal courts.

In 1998, with the Victoria Police taking an interest in church sexual-abuse, the Salesians transferred Fox to work for them in Fiji, out of the reach of the Victoria Police. Broken Rites has ascertained that, in the 1999 edition of the annual printed Australian Catholic Directory (and in subsequent editions), Father Fox was listed merely as being "overseas".

In 2000, the Salesians felt it wise to pay an out-of-court financial settlement to Luke Quilligan, a former student of Father Fox in Melbourne. The payment, which was relatively modest, was made on condition that Luke would give up his right to sue the Salesians publicly for a larger amount in the Victorian Supreme Court for the damage done to his life. To learn more about Luke's out-of-court settlement, see a link at the end of this article.

In 2003 the Salesians appointed Father Fox to their world headquarters in Rome, Italy, where he worked for the next ten years as a web-master on the Salesians' worldwide website. Salesian websites have claimed that the Salesians, "operating in more than 125 countries", are the second or third largest Catholic religious order in the world.

These overseas appointments enabled Father Fox to avoid Australian police. While in Rome, he travelled the world, conducting computer seminars for Catholic Church organisations and schools. For example, Broken Rites discovered that in February 2009, Father Fox was in Ireland, conducting a seminar at a boys' secondary school, Salesian College in Kildare.

However, Fox did not seem to make similar appearances in Australia. The Victoria Police kept trying to persuade Fox to re-visit Australia, so that they could interview him about the complaints which police were receiving from Fox's Melbourne ex-students. For years, Fox ignored the police requests.

Charged in court

In April 2013, the Victoria Police finally managed to get Father back to Australia to face criminal charges in Melbourne. The charges were laid by a specialist unit of detectives (called Taskforce Sano) in the Sex Crime Squad of the Victoria Police.

On 19 July 2013, Fox appeared briefly in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, to be formally charged with multiple incidents of:

  • buggery,
  • indecent assault and
  • common (physical) assault.

The charges related to boys at two of the above-mentioned Melbourne schools (at "Rupertswood" and Ferntree Gully) between 1976 and 1985.

For example, two of the buggery charges related to a boy ("Basil"), who alleged in his sworn statement for the Victoria Police (in 2010) that he was raped on two occasions  by Father Fox while being a boarder at "Rupertswood" in 1980-81, aged about 12. Like other church-abuse victims, "Basil" was unable to tell his family that he had been sexually assaulted by a priest (a priest who was indeed the school's vice-principal). This secrecy, said Basil, disrupted his teenage development, resulting in serious lifestyle problems in his twenties and thirties.

The seven former students in this court case were not necessarily the only ex-students who were concerned about Fox. These seven were merely from among those ex-students who spoke to detectives in the Victoria Police sex-crimes squad. Other ex-students of Fox may have remained silent.

Preliminary hearing

A Melbourne magistrate previewed the evidence at a committal hearing concerning all the complainants. Fox's legal team, fully supported by the Salesian organisation, indicated that Fox would contest the charges. The magistrate found that there was enough evidence for Fox to undergo a trial in a higher court, the Melbourne County Court, where the proceedings would be chaired by a judge.

Meanwhile, Broken Rites found "Reverend Julian Fox" listed in the annual printed Australian Catholic Directory, which went on sale in mid-2014. He was listed as "on leave", residing in 2014 in the Salesian community's accommodation attached to their Australian headquarters in Ascot Vale, Melbourne.

Jury trials

At the Melbourne County Court, Fox appeared before Judge Graeme Hicks on 11 August 2014 on a total of ten sexual charges (three charges of buggery and seven charges of indecent assault), committed upon four boys. Some charges were added about "common (physical) assault" on three other boys.

The County Court dealt with the victims in separate trials (each with a different jury), held between September 2014 and July 2015. To protect the integrity of the proceedings, the court banned the media from making any mention of the Fox case until all the trials were finished. The purpose of this was to enable each jury to focus on a particular alleged victim. Each jury was not told about other alleged victims or about the other juries.

The first jury trial, in September 2014 (concerning one victim, "Lionel", at the Ferntree Gully school, aged 14), resulted in a finding that Fox was guilty of indecently assaulting this victim. "Lionel" was vulnerable as he was from a large family, and the mother died when this victim was two and a half years old.

After this guilty verdict, the judge ordered that Fox be remanded in custody, as Fox would not be sentenced until all the subsequent trials were finished.

In another jury trial, Fox was found guilty of two incidents of indecent assault against another victim ("Jasper", aged 14, a boarder at "Rupertswood").

Jury trials about two other boys resulted in "not guilty" verdicts. One of these was the above-mentioned "Basil" who alleged that Fox had committed buggery on him at Rupertswood.

After the guilty verdicts regarding two of his victims, Fox decided to plead guilty to some charges of common (physical) assault, which occurred while he was "punishing" three other boys.

Sentence proceedings

After all hearings had finished, Judge Graeme Hicks held the sentencing on 28 August 2015. A Broken Rites researcher was present in court, taking notes (this Broken Rites article is based on those notes).

Judge Hicks began the sentencing by lifting the media-suppression order.

The case of "Lionel"

At the sentencing, Judge Hicks explained some points about the two indecent assaults  of "Lionel" (aged 14, at the Ferntree Gully school).

Charge 1 re "Lionel": When this boy was sent to Fox for disciplining in Year 9, Fox hit him several times on the backside over his pants and then again with his pants removed. Fox allegedly inserted his finger, painfully, into the boy's anus. This digital penetration was charged as indecent assault.

Charge 2 re "Lionel": This second assault also happened in Year 9. The boy's offence was that he was seen running in the hallway. After caning the boy's bare buttocks, Fox fondled the boy's testicles. This time, according to the boy's evidence, another Salesian priest [Father Julius Chiste, a foreign name, pronounced like "Kister", now deceased] was present in the room, witnessing the assault but did nothing to assist the boy, although he spoke to the boy as the boy was leaving the room. Fox denied assaulting the boy but the jury rejected this and accepted the boy's evidence. At sentencing, Judge Hicks told Fox about the "Lionel" case: "I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt as to the truth and accuracy of the complainant's evidence as to how he was assaulted by you on both occasions."

The case of "Jasper"

Judge Hicks then spoke about the charge of indecent assault relating to "Jasper".This boy's parents had separated. One night, at Rupertswood, this boy behaved noisily in his dormitory (containing about 100 students). The boy was sent to Fox's office at about 10.00pm to be disciplined. Fox began thrashing the boy's bare buttocks with a pool cue. When the boy objected to this excessive punishment, Fox thrust forcefully thrust one end of the pool cue between the complainant's buttocks.

Judge Hicks said at the sentencing that the complainant described the incident as the pool cue being "slammed up his bare arse", that it was "brutal", and that it was "excruciating pain."

The complainant said his anus bled for two days and there was blood on his pyjama pants and bed sheets.

At sentencing, Judge Hicks said that he is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the complainant's account of the incident is correct.

At sentencing, Judge Hicks told Fox: "I regard this [the case of "Jasper"] as a particularly serious case of indecent assault... You forcibly thrust the end of a billiard cue up your young victim's buttocks so hard that he lost strength in his knees. Your victim described ... the pain as excruciating. Your victim's anus bled for some two days. This is the most serious of the charges I am to sentence you upon."

Physical assaults

After the jury verdicts on the indecent-assault charges, Fox pleaded guilty to three counts of "common assault" (that is, physical assault - not indecent assault), related to belting three other boys with a pool cue.

Judge Hicks said that two of these boys were caught talking in their dormitory at Rupertswood after lights-out. Fox physically assaulted both boys on the buttocks, repeatedly, with a pool cue.

The judge said Fox belted the third boy with a pool cue after the boy was reported by a teacher for uttering the word "fuck".

The judge said that, in these common assaults, Fox exceeded the boundaries of lawful corporal punishment.

Judge Hicks fined Fox $10,000 for these physical assaults.

Further remarks by the judge

In a summing up at the sentencing, Judge Hicks told Fox:

"There was a great imbalance in the power that you were able to exercise to that of your young students who you sexually assaulted [that is, as a school principal or vice-principal versus a student].

"Added to that great imbalance is that at the time you sexually assaulted them you had just corporally punished these young students, adding to their vulnerability...

"Your duty was to protect those in your charge - not sexually exploit them."

Judge Hicks told Fox: "You have not expressed any regret or remorse for your callous and criminal acts".

Judge Hicks said that Fox's offending represented a power imbalance and gross breach of trust, as he was a teacher and member of the clergy.

"The victim impact statements are powerful testimony to the injury, both physical and mental, that you have caused your victims," the judge said.

The judge told Fox: "You have caused a great deal of human damage and misery."

Jailed

For the indecent assaults (against "Lionel" and "Jasper"), Judge Hicks gave Fox a maximum sentence of four years jail.

The judge stated that the maximum penalty for indecent assaults at the time of these offences was half as long as it would be for offences committed today. [The judge was obliged to apply the laws that existed in the early 1980s, not the laws of 2015.]

Fox must serve two years and eight months before he is eligible for parole. At the time of the sentencing, he had already served twelve months of his jail sentence while in custody in the Melbourne Remand Centre (during his court proceedings).

Judge Hicks fined Fox $10,000 for the common (physical) assaults against the three other boys for which Fox had pleaded guilty.

No apology from the church

On 28 August 2015, after the sentencing, the Salesian colleges in Melbourne (at Sunbury and Ferntree Gully) said in statements that they acknowledged the victims' suffering, although the schools did not offer formal apologies.

Other Salesian offenders

Broken Rites will continue to remind Australians about how the Catholic Church's Salesian order harboured various priests and Brothers while they committed offences against children. To see some previous Broken Rites articles about other Salesian offenders, click the following names:

  1. Fr Frank Klep .
  2. Fr David Rapson.
  3. Fr John Ayers.
  4. Fr Michael Aulsebrook .
  5. Brother Gregory Coffey .
  6. Brother Paul van Ruth.
  7. Fr Paul Raymond Evans .
  8. Fr Patrick Laws .
  9. Fr Adrian Wenting.

A victim of Fox receives compensation, but too late

See more from Broken Rites about Julian Fox HERE — about how the Salesians paid a "confidential" settlement to silence one of Father Julian Fox's ex-students, Luke Quilligan. With his life ruined, Luke died in 2006 (aged 42) and therefore was not able to have his day in court to see Father Julian Fox being brought to justice in 2015.