Fr Damian Colbourne is jailed for abusing a schoolgirl, aged 8

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 24 May 2017

Fr Anthony Francis Colbourne (also known by his "religious" name, Father "Damian" Colbourne) has spent many years as a priest in the Catholic order of Capuchin Franciscan Friars. In Brisbane District Court on 23 May 2017, Colbourne was jailed for sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl who was attending a Brisbane Catholic school. Father Colbourne, now aged 75, committed the assaults in 1974 when he was in his thirties. Colbourne was charged by police in 2016 after the victim reported him to Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission. In court, Colbourne pleaded guilty.

The Capuchin Franciscans, who wear brown monk-like robes, are a comparatively small order in Australia. The Capuchin priests work in several locations in Australia's eastern states.

Colbourne's Brisbane offences occurred while he was the parish priest at the Guardian Angels church in Wynnum, a Brisbane suburb. This same site also includes the Guardian Angels Catholic primary school, where the girl was in Year 4.

The offences in 1974 occurred on several occasion in the priest's house (the presbytery) and his office.

According to the prosecution, Colbourne allegedly threatened the girl that she and her parents would go to hell unless she performed sex acts with him.

The preliminary proceedings began in a magistrates court in 2016. The  charges included indecent treatment of a child under 14 and indecent assault. Colbourne was represented by a Catholic Church-funded lawyer.

In a police statement, the victim said Colbourne told her she had to fondle him because she was “a good girl who wants to go to heaven with your mummy and daddy”.

He allegedly also forced her to perform oral sex on him and touched her vagina.

The woman told police that her belief at the time was that priests were the closest beings to God and “you must do as they say”.

The prosecutor said the victim was 14-years-old when she finally told her mother what happened, but was not believed.

Colbourne appeared in the Brisbane District Court on 23 May 2017 for sentencing. Judge Tony Moynihan took into account Colbourne's advanced age and his guilty plea. The judge sentenced Colbourne to a total 18 months in jail. Colbourne must spend four months behind bars, and the remainder of the jail sentence will then be suspended. The judge said that this time behind bars would be onerous for the elderly priest despite his relatively good health.

FOOTNOTE: This girl was not necessarily Father "Damian" Colbourne's only victim -- she was merely the one who contacted the Royal Commission and then the Queensland Police. Broken Rites has received information from another girl who encountered Father Colbourne in Brisbane. Father "Damian" Colbourne later ministered at the Leichhardt parish in Sydney. He is retired now from parish work and is living at a Capuchin residence in another city.