Catholic Church Admits Abuse Errors
The Age [Australia]
June 2, 2004
The Catholic Church in South Australia admitted to failing to properly deal with allegations of child sexual abuse at an Adelaide school for intellectually disabled children.
The admission came as the church released a report into the conduct of convicted paedophile Brian Perkins, who worked as a bus driver and handyman at St Ann's Special School from 1986 to 1991.
In September last year Perkins was jailed for 10 years after pleading guilty to five offences, including unlawful sexual conduct with three students at the school.
But his conviction came only after he was brought back from Queensland where he had fled after police began investigating allegations against him in 1991.
The report said it appeared the former principal of the school, the board of management and the Catholic Education Office did little more than note that serious allegations of sexual abuse involving students at the school had been made against an employee.
It also found that at the time of his appointment Perkins was already a convicted paedophile but that fact was not known to anyone at St Ann's.
As was the case with all St Ann's employees at the time, no adequate checks were made to determine his good character or suitability.
The report also said there were no protocols in place to address any of the issues which arose and no steps were taken to conduct any investigation into the extent of the allegations.
It said the then chairman of the board of St Ann's "simply hoped the matter would go away".
Despite the findings, Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson said he was satisfied there was no deliberate cover-up of the abuse.
But he said the report revealed terrible errors of judgment.
"This report gives the church some very powerful messages," Archbishop Wilson said.
"People made wrong decisions, they did not see or respect the urgency and seriousness of the matter and failed to carry out proper processes to protect the children and the needs of the families involved."
Archbishop Wilson said he was committed to the ongoing care and support of the students and parents involved at St Ann's.
"I also want to, once again, express my very deep shock and sorrow at the abuse of those who are among the most vulnerable in our society," he said.
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