27 Aug 2008

More sex allegations at elite school

Sydney Morning Herald - August 27, 2008

by Georgina Robinson & Alex Tibbitts

Police are investigating claims that at least 13 students at a prestigious Catholic boys boarding college in Bathurst were habitually sexually abused by a priest during the 1970s and 1980s.

Superintendent Mike Goodwin, from Bathurst police, said a former student of St Stanislaus Catholic College had come forward with allegations in August last year, and police formed Strike Force Heador to investigate.

Five former students were immediately identified as victims and a further eight former students have been identified since then as possible victims.

Brian Joseph Spillane, 65, a former priest, was arrested over the case in May.

He faced Bathurst Local Court in July, charged with 33 separate offences. The charges included six counts of sexual intercourse with pupils aged 11, 12 and 13.

He is facing 18 counts alleging he engaged in acts of gross indecency with the pupils he allegedly solicited and incited to commit gross acts of indecency.

Other allegations against Spillane relate to male-to-male sexual intercourse with persons from 10 to 16 years of age under authority.

Superintendent Goodwin said investigations were continuing.

Police also believe there are other alleged victims who have yet to come forward, and are appealing for their help.

Last night St Stanislaus headmaster John Edwards said he had not been informed by authorities of any further investigation beyond the case already before the courts.

He believed he would have been informed by authorities if there was any investigation involving current students.

"I have not been informed of any subsequent allegations by a proper authority," he told the Herald last night.

"We view allegations of any sexual misconduct towards children with grave concern. We are concerned for the well being of any child - whether they now be adult or not - who may have been subject to abuse.

"We strongly support the process of thoroughly investigating allegations of sexual misconduct towards children."

Superintendent Goodwin appealed for anyone with information or concerns to come forward.

"During our inquiries we have obtained comprehensive statements from a number of people who have assisted with the investigation," he said.

"I can understand it would be very difficult to come forward and discuss such matters, but I would reassure anyone with information that a phone call to police would be dealt with in the strictest confidence."

A prestigious day and boarding school for boys, St Stanislaus was founded in 1867.

A priest who worked at the school in the 1970s was charged in 1994 over alleged sexual abuse of two students.

The priest was acquitted of all charges but the Vincentian order, which runs the school, made a cash payment of about $40,000 to one of the students.

Bishop Michael Malone, who later employed the priest in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, said: "I understand the reason for that was that the Vincentians could have fought the matter in civil court and it would have been very costly with regard to legal costs to them even if they had won, unless costs were awarded against the alleged victim."

- with Dylan Welch

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