Priest Forgiven, Boy Forgotten after Sex Abuse
By Kevin Meade
November 10, 2006
The Anglican Church ignored the needs of a teenage boy who was sexually abused by a priest for more than two years, a judge said yesterday before sentencing the disgraced former cleric to a year in jail.
Robert Francis Sharwood, 62, was convicted in the Brisbane District Court yesterday of 11 counts of sexually abusing the boy in the 1970s.
Judge Fleur Kingham said Sharwood was counselled and forgiven by the church and allowed to remain a priest after his abuse was exposed.
"Unfortunately (the victim's) needs were not addressed by the church," Judge Kingham said. "He received no counselling."
A jury on Monday found Sharwood guilty of sodomy, permitting sodomy and two charges of indecent assault.
Before his trial started last week, he pleaded guilty to seven charges of sexually assaulting the boy.
Judge Kingham sentenced him to two years and nine months in jail, to be suspended after he serves 12 months.
Sharwood was a 30-year-old curate at an Anglican church at Jindalee in Brisbane's southwest when he lured the boy into a sexual relationship.
The victim, now a 42-year-old university lecturer, was 13 when the sexual abuse began.
Prosecutor Ron Swanwick said Sharwood and the boy had hundreds of sexual encounters between 1974 and 1976.
Both were music lovers and Sharwood used their common interest as a pretext to involve the boy in sexual behaviour.
The two sodomy offences took place on a single bed in the parish rectory.
The sexual assaults - involving kissing, fondling, masturbation and oral sex - took place inthe victim's bedroom, at thepriest's home, in the parish car and on a rug by a creek at rural Samford, northwest of Brisbane.
Judge Kingham told Sharwood he had "corrupted" the teenager.
"You took advantage of and abused the trust (the victim's) family placed in an office-holder of the church," she said.
The trial was told that Sharwood was forgiven by two senior clerics after the victim's father intercepted a letter from the priest to the boy that showed they had been in a sexual relationship.
Judge Kingham said that after he was counselled by the clerics, Sharwood embarked on a program to improve himself.
With the consent of the boy's father, he had also set out to develop a proper relationship with the boy.
Sharwood invited the victim to his wedding in 1977 and officiated as assistant priest at the victim's marriage in 1982.
Judge Kingham said there was no evidence Sharwood had abused any other children.
Sharwood worked as a teacher and chaplain at the prestigious Anglican Grammar School in Brisbane - better known as Churchie - from 1985 to 2002.
He was sacked in 2002 after the victim informed the school of the sexual abuse he had suffered.
The abuse Sharwood inflicted on the boy in his teen years had a substantial emotional and psychological impact on the victim and his wife in later years.
Mr Swanwick said that by contesting four of the offences, Sharwood had forced his victim to be subjected to the ordeal of cross-examination on intimate and sometimes "disgusting" details of the abuse he had suffered.
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