Former priestappeals child sex conviction

A NOTORIOUS child sex offender, former priest Brian Spillane, has launched a bid to quash his conviction by claiming he faced an unfair trial.

Spillane, a former chaplain at Bathurst’s St Stanislaus College, was sentenced to nine years in prison earlier this year for abusing three girls, one as young as eight, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He was originally arrested with three other priests accused of similar offences – including Fr Peter William Dwyer, a former Tamworth-based priest, and Brother John Gaven – in September 2008 as part of a large-scale police operation, Strike Force Belle, which was established by the Chifley Local Area Command to investigate historic child sexual abuse claims. 

Fr Spillane, Fr Dwyer and Brother Gaven all pleaded not guilty to a total of 128 charges relating to the sexual abuse of children. 

In May last year Father Dwyer, 68, walked free from court after a jury cleared him of charges 

relating to alleged assaults against students at the college between 1977 and 1992. 

The Order of Australia recipient pleaded not guilty to 10 offences, including indecent assault and having sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16.

During his trial in the NSW District Court, Mr Dwyer called the allegations “absolutely repulsive” and said he was “shocked” to hear evidence against him.

The jury in the case later found Mr Dwyer not guilty on all counts.

It is understood Brother John Gaven is awaiting court proceedings in Sydney next year. 

Yesterday it was revealed Spillane’s lawyer, Greg Walsh, had prepared a series of documents outlining why the conviction should be overturned. The case will be heard in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in April next year, about the same time the royal commission into child sex abuse will be lifting the lid on decades of crime and cover-up.

Mr Walsh this week claimed Spillane, 69, was wrongly convicted.

“I’ve been a lawyer for 35 years and I don’t think I’ve seen a more unfair trial in my experience,” he said.

One Spillane victim was the 11-year-old relative of male students known to him. During court proceedings, it was revealed Spillane abused her at a North  West NSW country town. 

Alone together in the kitchen of her home, Spillane asked the girl to sit on 

his lap.  When she did, he put his fingers between her legs and touched her vagina. When she jumped away, he wrapped a hand around her throat and with the other, pulled the girl’s shorts down and assaulted her again.

The other victims were from Sydney, where the priest worked before returning to Bathurst in about 1984. 

Mr Walsh conceded the national focus on child sex abuse would sharpen reaction to Spillane’s bid for freedom.

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