Ex-Ballarat priest Leslie John Sheahan guilty of sex abuse

Heral Sun, Australia/August 23, 2016

By Shannon Deery

Australia's most notorious Catholic diocese for paedophile priests has added another serial child abuser to its number.

Former Ballarat priest Leslie John Sheahan was today found guilty by a magistrate of two charges of indecently assaulting a young girl from his time as a young priest in the 1960s.

The girl is his fourth known victim after Sheahan last year admitted molesting another three victims from the Ballarat and Horsham areas.

Sheahan was ordained alongside former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns in 1956, and like so many priests under his watch, was left to work alongside kids after allegations of misconduct surfaced.

Sheahan, 85, denied the most recent allegations, refused to be interviewed by police and declined the opportunity to give evidence at today’s hearing at the Ballarat Magistrates Court.

The court heard details of how Sheahan crept into his victim’s bed as she slept and started to fondle her genitalia while forcing her to perform a lewd sex act on him.

The girl, who was about 9 at the time and attended the notorious St Alipius Primary School, woke to find Sheahan molesting her, but said nothing because she was confused about what was happening.

“He kept telling me how nice it felt,” she said.

“I felt quite ashamed”.

As he left the room Sheahan warned her not to tell her parents, who had members of the clergy around to the family home, including Bishop Mulkearns.

Sheahan had been working at St Columba’s in North Ballarat, but was a regular visitor to the St Alipius Parish, where notorious paedophiles Gerald Ridsdale and Robert Best molested students.

Sheahan’s victim told the court she wrote to Bishop Mulkearns, who passed away earlier this year, around 1990 to warn him about Sheahan.

She said Mulkearns invited her to a meeting to discuss the problem — an offer she refused because she feared her family learning of the abuse — but Sheahan was allowed to stay working around children.

When the woman found out Sheahan was still working with children she phoned him to confront him about it and said he broke down crying.

She was later horrified to find him officiating at a funeral mass of a person well known to her, a move that prompted her to report the matter to police.

Ray Alexander, for Sheahan, told the court there were sufficient discrepancies in the allegations to find his client not guilty.

He also said it was incredible to think a priest would be so brazen as to molest a girl while her parents sat nearby.

But Ms Toosey didn’t agree, indicating Sheahan would be headed back to jail when he is sentenced later this year.

He served a three month term last year, and was handed a suspended sentence on a second court appearance.

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