Accused priest like the devil, says man who was allegedly drugged and raped at school
Authorities took ‘no action’ against abuse of ‘vulnerable young girls’ – judge
- From: news.com.au
- June 22, 2013
THE victims of a serial child molester, a Catholic school teacher, say the church and school authorities knew of the abuse – and did nothing to stop it.
A Sydney lawyer has called for charges to be laid against the Catholic Church and some of the former principals of a Catholic primary school after one of its teachers was this week sentenced for molesting girls as young as eight.
Documents obtained by news.com.au show the school’s principal at the time of the offences knew the details of the sexual assaults and actively decided to cover them up rather than go to police.
Jason Parkinson, the solicitor representing the victims, says charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice may be able to be laid against school authorities at the time of the offences and against church officials who knew of the cases.
Mr Parkinson’s call comes after the sentencing judge criticised the school and church authorities for allowing girls at the school to be sexually assaulted by the teacher who “took away their lives”.
“He took away their innocence and trust. He took away the lives they had, and the lives they could have had,” Judge Donna Woodburne said in sentencing Michael Drew to 13 years prison.
Drew, now 57, was sacked from St Agnes’ Catholic Primary School in Matraville in 1982, but his crimes against girls dated back to as early as 1979.
His dismissal papers stated: “It has been confirmed that you have been touching private parts of the body of girls at school. Because of the seriousness of these acts, after consultation with the Director of Education Brother (WXS), I have no other alternative as your employer but to summarily dismiss you for misconduct.
“While at this point of time we don’t intend pressing charges against you we must warn you that we have witnesses that include the children involved and their parents.”
Mr Parkinson told news.com.au there was a “real case” for others to be charged.
“If the children of today and tomorrow are to be protected, then (everyone) who covered up the child abuse must be brought before a court.”
On Friday, Drew was sentenced in Sydney’s Downing Centre to a minimum of six years and six months for one count of committing an act of indecency on a girl aged under 16, six counts of sexual intercourse with a person under 16 and 12 counts of assault and commit an act of indecency on a female aged under 16.
Outside the court, the victims of the former teacher and netball coach wept and demanded action from the church and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
In an exclusive interview, they told how the teacher’s “rampage” of blatant sexual abuse had ruined their lives and said they were outraged the Church had decided to cover it up.
“We are calling on Julia Gillard and the Catholic Church to do something about the people who did nothing to stop this abuse,” said one victim, referred to as JW to protect her identity.
She attempted suicide at St Agnes because of Drew’s sexual assaults on her and when this was reported to the school’s principal, the head nun told her it was “a sin” to take one’s own life.
“We call on the Catholic Church to stop excusing itself and do something real to make this change,” she said.
“It’s all very well for Cardinal (George) Pell to get up and say they didn’t know about it.
“In our case the school knew, the Catholic Education office knew and they decided not to go to police.”
In court, Judge Woodburne said Drew had embarked on a “systematic course of abuse on vulnerable young girls” over four years.
She said the offences had been “brought to the attention of authorities who took no action at all”, and that an earlier court hearing of Drew’s abuse of one of the girls noted the “inaction of the school which can only serve to increase the suffering of the victims”.
Judge Woodburne related the stories of six of Drew’s victims when he began a “sustained course of criminality” against students at St Agnes.
She outlined the details of the 19 instances of sexual assault and intercourse with his students.
Drew customarily called one of the girls to the front of the class and ordered them to stand next to him while he put his hand inside their uniform and sexually assaulted them.
When a girl refused to come to the front of the class, he punished her by making her stay back during the lunch hour alone with him while he assaulted her.
He also took children to his home, a Catholic Church property near the school, and assaulted them there and showed them pornography, or took them to the sports shed to assault them.
The judge said Drew was using fellow students to take notes to other teachers to excuse the girls from class so he could molest them.
“By then he was at the height of his powers,” JW said “He was on a rampage, sexually assaulting us in front of the class, pulling kids out of other classes.
“No one stopped them.”
Judge Woodhouse told the stories of JW and her sister, TW, and how their lives had been ruined by Drew’s assaults which had escalated when their mother was put in hospital following a car accident.
She said JW had been a “happy young girl” before she started at St Agnes with her younger brother and sister, TW, who was five years the girl’s junior.
The judge said Drew had “exploited the naiveties and youth” of the girls by befriending them, walking them home and, after their mother was admitted to hospital, taking advantage of their freedom to lure them in with “treats” and assault them.
“JW went from a happy young girl to a frightened and isolated young child (who thought) the only way to stop what was happening was to take her own life.
JW raided the school’s medicine cabinet for pills and when, by recess, she needed help, she was “taken to the principal’s office, yelled at and told it was a sin to take her own life”.
“When she responded with what the accused had done to her and said that was a sin, the principal told her to say nothing.”
Judge Woodburne said after the younger sister, TW, witnessed Drew’s sexual assault of others in class, “she blamed herself for not telling an adult”.
TW was then herself assaulted.
“From then on she had a lot of sick days because she was fearful of the offender,” Judge Woodburne said.
“She found it difficult to cope with schoolwork … she became anorexic due to anxiety and not able to fulfil her dream of becoming a nurse.”
TW suffered post traumatic stress disorder, took to marijuana and cigarettes, alcohol, left school early and ended up in an abusive relationship.
The judge said she was now “a poorly educated single mother of five with little prospect of changing her socio-economic standards”.
The judge said JW had also suffered.
Outside the court, JW and her mother, FW, told the story of how the two girls had “gone off the rails” without either of their parents knowing the truth.
“He nearly destroyed my life,” JW, now 45, said. “It’s only really now I’ve started to come out of the pain and the darkness.
“I wonder how different my life would have been if not for his abuse. It’s been 30 years of pain and misery.
“After trying to commit suicide, I didn’t feel safe at school. I went through years of alcohol and drug abuse.
“I got into an abusive relationship and got pregnant at 17. I lost my relationship with my mother.
“I was promiscuous. I was drowning my pain in drinking and ecstasy, cocaine and speed.”
JW’s sister was going down a similar path and their mother could not understand what had gone wrong.
“I just didn’t know,” FW said, weeping outside the court. “I felt like I had failed as a mother.”
Three years ago, JW’s brother ran into another of Drew’s victims, which led to a strange reunion and a decision to finally take him to court for what he had done.
JW and her sister told their mother and it was like a “bombshell”.
“You don’t know you’ve been living a lie,” FW said.
Now the mother and daughter and the other victims say they are happy with the sentence, but they want justice for the school and church authorities who covered up the crimes.
“We’ll never get our lives back,” JW said, “but something has to happen to the people who allowed this to happen.”
Justice Woodburne told the court the “damage and the long-term psychological consequences and emotional harm” of the offences on the victims were substantial.
“The childhoods of the victims were stolen from them and the course of their lives were forever changed because they had the misfortune to begin the class of Mr Drew or in his netball team,” she said.
Priest accused of child abuse ‘sent to Australia’
- Charles Miranda in London
- From: News Limited Network
- March 04, 2013 12:00AM
TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities both in Australia and the UK amid allegations they sexually abused at least two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.
News Limited can reveal one of the priests, Father Gordon Bennett, died in 2011 but not before the church had been told the priest, who was sent to Australia in September 1985, was being accused of child sex offences.
The victim, who asked not to be named, had been writing to the church in the UK and later Australia with his claims for more than five years prior to Fr Bennett dying at the age of 90.
The victim, now aged in his 60s, last month retained legal counsel and is to pursue a claim of damages against the Catholic Church in Australia or in London where last Friday the UK’s highest court ruled clerics were akin to being “employees” of the church and thus diocese are liable.
In a second unrelated case, a Queensland man now aged in his 40s is also seeking legal redress after being allegedly abused by Jesuit priest Father James Chaning-Pearce who in 1997 pleaded guilty and was jailed in England for three years for abusing another three boys aged 12, 13 and 15.
The Australian man was allegedly abused in the mid-1980s in Zimbabwe – where his parents had been posted – and he met the priest who was working at a school.
He approached authorities including the police in the UK after he realised the man who had allegedly abused him was back working at a prestigious Catholic boys’ college in the UK.
It was his information that then sparked the police probe which led to Chaning-Pearce’s prosecution for the UK abuse.It is understood the priest, having served his time, is now at a monastery in Wales. No charges have been brought against him in relation to these latest allegations.
Legal sources close to both investigations said material gathered so far including letters written to the church authorities would be made available to the landmark royal commission announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last November.
The commission, with its wide-ranging powers, was created after NSW police claimed the Catholic Church covered up evidence of pedophile priests.
Since then the church has created the Truth, Justice and Healing Council to work with the commission on claims.
Truth, Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan said yesterday his group would look at the latest claims and was committed in supplying whatever evidence to get the truth out.
“The suffering of victims and those damaged from the abuse scandals remains the number one issue to be addressed and that our church, like other institutions, must keep up with best practice process to protect children and prevent any sexual or other abuse,” he said.