David Joseph Perrett refused bail in Armidale on 92 historical child sex abuse charges | Strike Force Bennett

Refused bail: David Joseph Perrett walks into Armidale Local Court on Wednesday morning. Photo: Nicholas Fuller
Refused bail: David Joseph Perrett walks into Armidale Local Court on Wednesday morning. Photo: Nicholas Fuller

A FORMER Catholic priest has been refused bail in court, accused of molesting or abusing 30 young boys or girls while he was a priest in the New England and North West area.

David Joseph Perrett was flanked by his brother and walked into Armidale Local Court with a walking stick on Wednesday, after he was charged with an additional 30 historical child sex abuse offences.

But the now 81-year-old left the courtroom in the custody of Corrective Services NSW officers after being denied bail by magistrate Michael Holmes.

Mr Holmes said the “court has taken into account his evidence he gave to the court, his medical condition" as well as his “frailty”, his age and the “historical nature of the offence” but found Perrett had not shown cause why his detention was not justified.

Mr Holmes refused bail, and said he believed Perrett’s medical conditions could be adequately addressed in custody, while his case moves through the courts.

On Wednesday, The Leader revealed the now 81-year-old stands accused of 92 separate allegations between the 1960s and 1990s in the Armidale, Lower Creek, Moree, Walgett and Guyra areas.

He is yet to enter pleas. On Wednesday, the DPP lodged a detention application to have Perrett refused bail. 

Eleven of the new charges triggered a show cause hearing meaning Perrett needed to produce evidence as to why his detention was not justified, because “they all involved sexual intercourse with people, children under the age of 16”.

DPP solicitor Luke Boenisch said two of the charges involved sexual intercourse with a child that was “five years old and are punishable by life”.

Two detectives including the officer-in-charge from Strike Force Bennett – who have been investigating historical abuse allegations – were in court for the bail application, which spanned much of the day in Armidale court.

Barrister Jason Curtis submitted medical reports from two doctors but was unavailable to obtain a report from Perrett’s cardiologist, who is treating him for a heart condition.

Giving evidence in court, Perrett said he had had “five or six visits to the casualty ward at the Armidale hospital because of respiratory difficulties” but that was later clarified to be visits to the private hospital for treatment for sleep apnoea. He sleeps with a breathing machine, the court heard.

“I depend on my brother to put on my socks,” Perrett told the court, explaining his breathing difficulties meant he couldn’t tie his own laces and he had to keep his “head up”.

Perrett said he had other complications, but Mr Boenisch argued “that condition is currently stable” and he was being medicated.

I depend on my brother to put on my socks.

David Joseph Perrett

He continues to live with his brother and up until an operation eight weeks ago, walked to the police station, which was a 2km round trip.

Mr Curtis said it was his submission “that the medical factors alone would satisfy the show cause requirement” along with the legal and factual “complexity of the case”.

He argued his client should be on bail to prepare for a trial, which was not expected to get a date within two years. He argued there was “weaknesses in the Crown case”.

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Mr Curtis wanted to call a witness to give evidence about the “weaknesses” and “inconsistencies” and tendered two letters from a child at the orphanage where some of the alleged offending occurred, along with a nun.

He said it was “an implausible allegation” that Perrett attended the dormitory where some of the alleged offending occurred because they argued there was no such “sacristy room” or “toilet facilities, within the church hall structure”.

Mr Curtis submitted there was “no independent evidence”, and the “strength of the Crown case is no more than a he said, she said” case.

Mr Boesnich argued Perrett was “an elderly man … that seems to be the main issue” and on his health, “those conditions as they are could be dealt with in prison”.

“He’s medicated, and he’s currently stable,” he said.

He argued if found guilty, Perrett would face a lengthy jail term, and submitted that on the strength of the Crown case, involving 30 alleged victims, that “these matters are almost exclusively oath-on-oath”.

He also told the court further evidence had been served on Wednesday “that indicates the church has been renovated” over the years, and “things have been moved around”.

The court heard Perrett was ordained as a priest in 1961 and spent time in Walcha and Moree before being transferred to Armidale for 11 years in 1969. He was then appointed to positions in the church in Guyra, Walgett and Boggabri. He is now retired.

Armidale detectives have been investigating abuse allegations against the retired Catholic priest since 2015, and 62 separate charges in relation to 21 complainants had been before the court.

In recent months, nine new complainants have come forward alleging abuse at the hands of the retired priest.

Of the 30 new charges, that were in court for the first time on Wednesday, Perrett is accused of sexually abusing or molesting children in areas such as Lower Creek, Guyra and Walgett.

The new charges include buggery, carnal knowledge of a child under 10, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He faces life behind bars if found guilty of the offences.

Perrett was extradited by Armidale detectives from Wallangara in May 2017 and taken to Armidale, where he spent one night in custody before being granted bail in an out-of-sessions weekend bail hearing before a registrar in Armidale Local Court.

The court heard he had reported to police 168 times since.

Perrett will now remain behind bars until the case returns to court in mid-October.

Detectives have been ordered to compile a brief of evidence in relation to the new charges.

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