A NSW priest is acquitted of a child-sex offence

By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 18 October 2016

On 17 October 2016, a New South Wales court acquitted a Catholic priest, Father Neru Leuea, who had been charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl. Police alleged that the assault occurred at Griffith NSW in 2002-2003, about the time this man began working as a priest. Handing down his verdict after a judge-alone trial, Judge Gordon Lerve said he could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an offence had occurred within the time-frame contained in the Crown’s indictment.

Father Leuea has been working in the Wagga Diocese which extends southward as far as Albury on the Victorian border. The Catholic Church in New South Wales is divided into eleven dioceses.

Police from Griffith Local Area Command arrested Father Neru Leuea in Narrandera on 11 November 2015. He was charged in Wagga Local Court, where the case had several more procedural mentions in subsequent months.

Neru Leuea pleaded not guilty.

Now that he has been acquitted by Judge Lerve in the Wagga District Court, the case will be reviewed by the NSW Ombudsman.

Some background

A NSW local newspaper stated in 2014 that Fr Neru Leuea was born in Samoa as one of 11 siblings. He began studying to be a teacher but switched to studying for the priesthood.

A church website includes Fr Neru Leuea's name in a list of priests who did part or all of their formation at Vianney College in the Wagga diocese.

The Australian Catholic Directory website gives the date of Neru Leuea's ordination as 7 December 2002.

In New South Wales, Leuea has ministered in several parishes in the Wagga Wagga diocese — Griffith, followed by Leeton, then back to Griffith again before becoming the parish priest of St Mel's parish in Narrandera in 2014.