Child abuse arrests hit Aussie church

Reuters/June 21, 2004
By Michael Perry

Sydney -- The Anglican Church in Australia has been engulfed in a child sex abuse scandal with nine people, including two former ministers, arrested or ordered to appear in court on sexual abuse offences, police said on Monday.

Police made arrests across Australia between Thursday and Sunday after investigating 200 claims of sex abuses against children by former members of the Anglican Church in the state of South Australia.

"As a result of those investigations the paedophile taskforce has arrested or reported nine men," said police, giving details of charges of child sexual abuse between 1952 and 2000.

'I'm sure there will be more'

The first to face court was a 59-year-old former Anglican minister who appeared briefly in a court in the South Australian city of Adelaide on Monday.

The man, who cannot be named, faced four charges of indecent assault and one of buggery allegedly committed against a 12-year-old victim between 1970 and 1975. The man did not enter a plea and will reappear in court in September.

The other men arrested or ordered to appear in court, included another former Anglican minister, two former leaders of the Church of England Boys Society, two former Salvation Army officers and a former Anglican Church foster carer.

The Anglican Church in South Australia said it expected more arrests, in line with police statements.

"I'm sure there will be more," Archdeacon John Collas told reporters in Adelaide. "I don't believe this is the end of it, there will be more.

"But I am pleased to hear that those who are persons of interest are not working in any way in the church. They may be sitting in a pew somewhere, but they're not working in the church," Collas said.

An apology to sex abuse victims was read at all Anglican parishes in Adelaide on Sunday. "We are ashamed to have to acknowledge we only took notice when the survivors of abuse became a threat to us," the apology said.

A report into claims of child sex abuse in the Anglican church in Adelaide released in May found: "Sexual abuse within the Diocese of Adelaide is not a new phenomenon."

The church report examined more than 80 complaints of abuse and found that the church had failed to address properly child sexual abuse dating back 50 years.

"There was no effective system in place to ensure that persons who had been convicted of sexual abuse or had left a parish under suspicion of sexual abuse were not employed again as a priest," said the report.

It said the Anglican Church had told one man facing sex abuse claims that he should leave Australia to avoid prosecution.

Adelaide Archbishop Ian George resigned 10 days ago over the church's handling of child sex abuse.

Australia's Anglican and Catholic churches have been hit by child sex abuse scandals in recent years.

Australia's biggest church, the Catholic church, apologised to sex abuse victims in 1996 and has paid out millions of dollars in compensation for sexual abuse by its clergy.

The Anglican church was embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal in 2003 when it was revealed that Australia's governor-general, a former Anglican bishop, had allowed a known paedophile to remain a priest in the 1990s.

The governor general, who represented Britain's Queen Elizabeth as Australian head of state, was forced to resign.

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