15 Jan 2011

Australian Catholic priest allegedly abused little girls in the confessional and in their own homes, trial begins

They Sydney Morning Herald - Australia November 3, 2010

Former priest accused of bedtime depravity

by David Marr

AFTER hearing a young girl's bedtime prayers, Father Brian Joseph Spillane would tongue-kiss her and lie on top of her, a District Court jury was told on the opening day of the former priest's trial. Mr Spillane is facing 11 counts of indecent assault involving four girls as young as six.

''The depravity of the conduct of the accused'' towards this eight- or nine-year-old girl grew worse over about 18 months, the Crown prosecutor, Brad Hughes, said. One night he grabbed her hand and ''placed it on his penis which was erect. He then kissed her and continued to rub his erect penis against her hands and legs.''

Six of the charges relate to this girl living in Marsfield, where Mr Spillane was acting parish priest in the early 1980s. Two further charges relate to visits in the mid-1970s to the Moree home of two pupils he taught at an all-boys' boarding school in Bathurst.

He is accused of indecently assaulting their seven-year-old sister in the kitchen of her home.

The prosecution alleged a common pattern.

''He ingratiated himself with their parents, thereby gaining access to the girls, and was thereby provided the opportunity to indecently assault them and he did so,'' Mr Hughes said.

He spoke of Mr Spillane bringing whisky for the parents and in one instance sugared peanuts for their daughters.

Mr Spillane is also charged with indecently assaulting a 12-year-old girl in the confessional at St Anthony's, Marsfield, in the late 1970s. ''He had one arm around her waist and the other around her shoulder. About a minute later he began to nuzzle his face into her neck. He squeezed her tightly around the body and kissed her on the side of the neck and the session continued for about five minutes.''

Later, the prosecution said, he indecently assaulted the same girl in his car, telling her she was ''special'', that ''he loved her'' and that ''God loved her'' while stroking her leg.

The former Vincentian priest is also charged with assaulting a 17-year-old girl the day after her best friend was killed in a traffic accident in 1981. After saying Mass for the girl, her family and friends in the living room of their house, Mr Spillane took her to his car where he ''shoved his hand up underneath her skirt, sliding it along her leg and grabbed her underwear and crotch''.

Mr Spillane ''totally denied'' all charges, his counsel, Philip Boulten, SC, told the court. ''The accused is not guilty and did not indecently assault any of the women.'' The 11 charges were said to have ''occurred a very long time ago'' and he foreshadowed that Mr Spillane would enter the witness box to be the chief witness in his own defence. ''There will be word against word.''

Mr Spillane does not deny talking of love to one of the girls ''in an appropriate liturgical setting''; does not deny kissing the girl after hearing her prayers with an affection ''proportionate to what is expected from a family friend''; and does not deny a practice of allowing young children to sit on his knee during confession.

Mr Boulton said: ''This was part of his strategy of openness toward the young children concerned.''

The trial before Judge Michael Finnane is expected to last four weeks.

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Australian pedophile priest convicted of child abuse groomed girls, boys and parents for assaults in their own homes

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