A child-abuse victim, now an adult, finally obtains justice through the police

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted 26 July 2016

On 15 June 2016, Catholic priest Father Leo Spicer (a member of the Servite religious order) was jailed by a Melbourne court after pleading guilty to the sexual penetration of a male (a student from a Catholic school, where Father Spicer was a chaplain). Father Spicer committed the crimes in 1982 at his Order's residence in Melbourne. The victim says his teenage and adult life was damaged by the abuse and by the church's culture of cover-up. He finally spoke to Victoria Police detectives when his life was spiralling downwards in his forties.

Father Leo Emmanuel Spicer (date of birth 7 February 1951) was ordained as a priest in Melbourne on 23 August 1976 in a religious order, the Order of the Servants of Mary (also known as the Servite Friars). This order provides chaplains and counsellors for schools, hospitals and other organisations. The Servites have a residence in Perth and also in Melbourne.

In 1982, Father Leo Spicer O.S.M. was ministering in Melbourne, including as a chaplain and religious educator at a Christian Brothers school in Melbourne. He now admits that, in 1982 (when he was aged 31), he sexually abused a student (aged about 16 or 17), while (according to the criminal charge) the student was under the priest's supervision and care and authority. The abuse occurred in Father Spicer's private room at the Servite community's house in Parkville (in Melbourne's inner-north).

When the victim finally spoke to the Victoria Police in his forties, Spicer was living in Perth. In 2013 the Victoria Police sent a detective (from the Sano Taskforce in  the sex-crimes unit) to Perth to interview Spicer, so that he could be charged in court in Melbourne under Victorian law.

The charges, comprising two incidents of sexual penetration of the male student, were filed in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 17 March 2016. Spicer chose to give up his right to have a full preliminary ("committal") hearing with a magistrate, and he proceeded directly to a higher court, the Victorian County Court, where (after Spicer's guilty plea) a judge conducted the sentencing on 15 June 2016. Taking into account Spicer's guilty plea, the judge sentenced Spicer to 15 months jail, with the right to apply for release on parole after serving nine months behind bars.