More Qld Abuse Cases Hit Anglican Church

West Australian
November 12, 2006

Queensland police are investigating two further complaints against a former Anglican priest who was jailed last week for sexual assault of a boy.

Robert Francis Sharwood, 62, was sentenced to jail after a jury in the Brisbane District Court found him guilty of sodomy, allowing sodomy and sexual assault involving a boy between 1974 and 1976.

The Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Philip Aspinall, confirmed two other complaints were being investigated.

"There are two more complainants in the matter and those matters are in the hands of police," Dr Aspinall said.

"I can't say anything about where they are from."

The new complaints emerged as Dr Aspinall came under fire over a letter he received from an Anglican priest in 2002 about another incident involving Sharwood in the 1970s.

The letter, from Canon Thomas Hood, reported in The Weekend Australian, as were the two new complaints, said Sharwood had apologised to the parents of the victim in the incident.

The victim told the newspaper he should have been told about the letter and the fact that both his parents had known of the "abuse".

Had he known, he said, he could have succeeded in legal action over the incident, because his mother, who has since died, could have given evidence.

Dr Aspinall said he had been unaware the victim had not known his parents knew of the abuse.

"I had no way of knowing that the victim didn't know that, and I had no way of knowing that it would have meant so much to the victim to have known that," Dr Aspinall told reporters.

"If I had any inkling of those things at the time, then I'm sure I would have made the letter available."

Dr Aspinall said the church had dealt with the letter in accordance with advice from the police, which was to file it and provide it to them on request.

He said the actual abuse allegation was reported to police six months before receiving the letter and the church had cooperated with the victim's solicitors.

As soon as the church had become aware of the abuse allegations, in early 2002, the victim had been provided with counselling, the police alerted, the priest stood aside and his licence to minister revoked, Dr Aspinall said.

The church later entered into mediation and reached a settlement with the victim.

"There was no attempt by the church to undermine his (the victim's) efforts to seek compensation," Dr Aspinall said.

Dr Aspinall said he would hate to think the controversy over the letter would deter victims of past abuse from coming forward with information.

Anti-abuse campaigner Hetty Johnston, from Bravehearts, said the church's abuse complaints handling processes had improved.

But she could see no reason why the letter was not given to the victim.

"I think they've got the criminal aspects down pat, but I think where the church still fails miserably is how they deal with the complainants themselves, the victims," Ms Johnston said.

"It's not really about the money. But I think it's more about the church acknowledging pain and suffering and remorse."


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