Former Priest Jailed over Sex with Teen

West Australian
November 9, 2006

A former Anglican priest has been jailed for 12 months for having sex with a teenage male organist he mentored more than 30 years ago.

Robert Francis Sharwood, 62, of Brisbane, was found guilty by a District Court jury in Brisbane of four charges including one each of carnal knowledge and permitting carnal knowledge and two of indecent assault, but acquitted on another charge of gross indecency.

Sharwood had already pleaded guilty to another seven charges relating to the sexual relationship between January, 1974, and March, 1976, while he was an assistant curate at a parish in Brisbane's south-west.

The now 46-year-old complainant, who cannot be named, was a 13-year-old parishioner who played the organ at the same parish when Sharwood seduced him through their shared love of classical music.

During the two-and-a-half years, Sharwood molested the boy about two to three times a week, including when he picked him up after school, at the rectory, during musical concerts, at their homes, and in a car.

Judge Fleur Kingham, sentencing Sharwood to two years and nine months jail, suspended it after 12 months, saying he had shown decades of exemplary behaviour and self-rehabilitation.

"It appears you are not now the same person as you were when you committed these offences," Judge Kingham said.

Sharwood spent 17 years as a preacher and teacher at an exclusive Brisbane private school, which sacked him in 2002 on hearing about the alleged abuse.

Judge Kingham urged Sharwood to read the victim impact statement which told of suffering guilt, helplessness, isolation, anger and flashbacks, all while maintaining a friendship with Sharwood, exchanging Christmas cards and attending the same church musical camps.

Sharwood was an assistant priest at the complainant's wedding in 1982, after the complainant was a groomsman at the accused's wedding in 1977.

A friendship continued for the next 25 years, until the victim lodged a complaint with police.

The affair originally came to light in 1976, when the victim's father discovered a love letter to his son from Sharwood.

However the church bestowed "absolute forgiveness and restoration to the church", on Sharwood, to reform him.


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