A priest is convicted in 2019 for a crime committed 54 years ago

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted 16 January 2019

A 2019 court case has proved that, under Australian law, it is never to late for any child-assault victim to report the crime to the child-protection police. In 1965, Catholic priest Allan John Mithen (then aged 25) twice indecently assaulted an Aboriginal girl while he was in charge of a West Australian institution for Aboriginal children who had been taken from their families. In the West Australian District Court on 15 January 2019, Father Mithen (now aged 80) pleaded guilty to these two assaults and was convicted. Mithen has also worked as a priest in Sydney and Melbourne and possibly elsewhere.

Allan John Mithen was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1963. Broken Rites research has found that Mithen was a member of the Pallottine religious order, which has provided priests for various Catholic parishes and other institutions around Australia.

The court was told that Mithen's first major appointment was in 1965 as superintendent of the Catholic Church's Wandering Mission, 120km south-east of Perth. Soon afterwards, on two occasions, he indecently assaulted an Aboriginal girl, aged 15.

The court was told that the girl had been removed from her family when she was four years old and taken to the mission, where (the court was told) she suffered incidents of physical, psychologically and sexual abuse.

The girl was aged 15 when Mithen indecently assaulted her in 1965 in his bedroom.

Mithen told the girl that she was bad and he sent her to Confession to admit the "sins" he had forced her to commit. During confession, another priest told the girl she had committed a mortal sin and would burn in hell.

About six months after the first assault, Mithen assaulted the girl again.

Judge's remarks

Judge Laurie Levy said the victim, having been taken from her family aged four, was particularly vulnerable.

"Rather than protecting her, those involved in running the mission subjected her to physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse," he said.

"She was refused an education to a large degree and put to work at a very young age."

Judge Levy said the sexual acts confused and sickened the girl. The judge noted that, in her victim impact statement, the victim said Mithen stole her innocence.

"She speaks of suffering from sadness, depression, fear and a sense of worthlessness. None of that was her making," the judge said. "Unsurprisingly, this caused her to suffer from guilt and shame, that she describes to have been unbearable. One can only imagine the intense turmoil that she went through."

The judge told Mithen: "She was being offended against by you in a vile manner, purely for your sexual gratification in circumstances where it was your role to spiritually guide her and protect her."

Sentence

Judge Laurie Levy sentenced Mithen to 13 months in prison. Because of Mithen's age and medical issues, the sentence was wholly suspended. This enabled Mitthen to return home to the state of Victoria., where he was living in retirement..

Further information

After his time at Wandering Mission in the 1960s, Father Mithen returned to positions as a Catholic priest in Australia's eastern states. His later work included dealing with Aboriginals in the Redfern area in inner-Sydney.

Broken Rites has checked Fr Allan Mithen in some old printed editions of the Australian Catholic Directory. In the 1988 directory, Mithen was listed as based at a Pallottine Fathers retreat centre in Millgrove, 63 km east of Melbourne.

In the 2014 directory, Rev. Allan Mithen was listed as living at a church retirement home for priests in Melbourne.