Brisbane sex abuse priest may be defrocked

AAP, Australia/Monday, 25 February 2008

An Anglican Church tribunal this week will hear evidence which could lead to a priest jailed for child sex being stripped of his orders.

Robert Francis Sharwood, 62, of Brisbane, was jailed for 12 months in November 2006 after being found guilty of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in Brisbane more than 30 years ago.

Sharwood was released from jail in November last year, attracting calls by child protection advocates for him to be immediately stripped of his holy orders.

While Brisbane Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall removed Sharwood's licence to operate as a priest in the diocese in 2002, the church's Professional Standards Board has yet to complete its processes which could lead to Sharwood being defrocked.

The process involves allowing Sharwood to make a submission before any decision is made on his Anglican orders, and could allow him to cross-examine his victim.

A church spokesman today said a formal hearing would be held in Brisbane on Saturday.

He said the hearing would be open to the public and its findings made public.

The church also plans to review its system of handling clergy convicted of serious offences.

Meanwhile, The Courier-Mail newspaper today published a photograph of Sharwood singing in an inner-Brisbane church choir which included children.

A church spokesman told AAP Sharwood was taking part in a public performance and was "monitored by suitable adults".

"He was kept a distance from children," the spokesman said.

"It's important to note part of our policy requires that parishioners are informed of his presence ... so they have the right to take any action they deem necessary.

"This whole system is aimed at ensuring that parishioners and, in particular, children are at no risk.

"Our requirements are more strict than any other requirement the law has of him."

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