Aspinall Defends Church Actions

By Brian Williams and Paul Osborne
Courier Mail [Australia]
November 12, 2006,23739,20745974-5007200,00.html

Police are investigating two further complaints against a former Anglican priest who was jailed last week for sexually assaulting a boy in the 1970s.

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

STERN words ... Archbishop Philip Aspinall yesterday.
Photo by James Robertson

Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane Philip Aspinall yesterday 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."

Dr Aspinall also wrote to church congregations defending his and the church's role over allegations of a failure to act in the sexual abuse case.

GUILTY ... 62-year-old pedophile and former priest Robert Sharwood outside court recently.
Photo by Jodie Richter

The letter said he and the church had at all times acted in the best interests of the victim of pedophile priest Robert Sharwood who was jailed last week in Brisbane.

Archbishop Aspinall described an article in The Weekend Australian newspaper as nonsense, saying he felt it might deter other abuse victims from coming forward.

The article said Dr Aspinall had received a letter from Cannon Thomas Hood in 2002 that was relevant to the abuse case but it had not been passed to police.

Dr Aspinall said yesterday that the letter was a complaint from Cannon Hood that the pedophile had been appropriately dealt with and the issue should have been let rest.

When the attacks happened in the Sherwood parish in Brisbane, Cannon Hood counselled those involved but did not report the matter to police.

But when a formal complaint came in 2002, the church immediately told police, sacked Sharwood and offered counselling and support to the victim.

Dr Aspinall said he had not realised the letter also contained information that would have been helpful to the victim.

This referred to the victim's parents' knowledge of the offences.

The victim said if he had known that it would have helped him in a civil action against the church.

Dr Aspinall said yesterday if he had known the letter was relevant to the victim's case he would have made it available.

At the time he did not know the victim was unaware that 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 said.

"If I had any inkling, I would have made the letter available."

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

He said the actual abuse allegation was reported to police six months before receiving the letter and the church had co-operated 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.


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