Abuse admission - Former Catholic priest pleads guilty to 47 charges

A DEFROCKED Catholic priest has admitted to sexually abusing young children in the North West as far back as 30 years ago.

The 60-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, walked into Armidale Local Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to 47 separate charges against eight victims, including three girls and five boys.

BAIL GRANTED: The former Catholic priest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and a member of the legal team in Armidale yesterday. Photo: Barry Smith 070814BSB07

BAIL GRANTED: The former Catholic priest, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and a member of the legal team in Armidale yesterday. Photo: Barry Smith 070814BSB07

The man has denied 31 separate charges against five alleged victims and has been committed to stand trial in the district court.

In a last-ditch attempt at 6.30 last night, DPP solicitor Peter Woods applied to have the accused’s bail refused on the charges he had pleaded guilty to.

Defence barrister Hament Dhanji SC said he had been given no notice of the detention application and told the court it had no power under the legislation to hear the submissions because an appropriate warning notice was not issued.

Magistrate Karen Stafford rejected the detention application and continued the accused’s bail.

The entire list of charges against the former priest date back to alleged offences in the 1970s and ’80s in Moree and Armidale.

But in a hearing yesterday afternoon, Ms Stafford refused an application by Mr Dhanji to have two alleged victims called to give evidence in a committal hearing, as well as three witnesses who have provided statements to investigators attached to Strike Force Glenroe – an operation set up in 2012 to look into historic sexual assault allegations against the former priest.

However, one other alleged victim and two female associates will be required to take the stand at a committal hearing set down in October, after Ms Stafford ruled there was an absence of detail in one statement and generality of detail in two others.

Ms Stafford said in the interests of justice, the defence was entitled to cross- examine the trio.

During the court proceedings, the DPP withdrew 22 charges and, after the Director of Public Prosecutions directed no further action on 28 counts, Ms Stafford dismissed them.

A number of charges will carry on a form and will be taken into account when a sentence is handed down.

A date for trial and sentence will be fixed after an appearance in the district court next month.

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