Elderly Catholic Brother Charged over Child-Sex Claims
By Rania Spooner
September 4, 2013
An elderly American Catholic brother has been charged over child sex abuse allegedly committed almost 40 years ago in Melbourne.
The alleged offences occurred while Bernard Hartman was working at St Paul's College in Altona between 1976 and 1982, and were committed against two male and two female victims aged between six and 16.
The 73-year-old brother has been charged with 14 counts of indecent assault.
Detectives from Taskforce Sano, which was created last year following the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse, arrested him on Wednesday.
Brother Hartman was the focus of allegations from Altona Meadows woman Mairead Ashcroft during evidence at the inquiry in November. Allegations were also made against him in 2003.
Brother Hartman worked in Australian Catholic schools in the 70s, and was still working for the church in Dayton, Ohio, in July 2012. He returned to the US in 1984.
Victoria Police have been in discussions with law enforcement agencies in the United States to have Brother Hartman questioned over allegations of sexual abuse concering his time in Australia.
Last year the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions was expected to explore options for extradition based on the strength of a potential case against him following questioning in the US.
Taskforce Sano detective senior sergeant Michael Dwyer said the Melbourne Catholic Archdiocese had been “instrumental” in assisting police with the arrest.
Brother Hartman faced the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday afternoon. Deputy Chief Magistrate Dan Muling heard that bail was not opposed for Brother Hartman.
The offending is alleged to have occurred at the school and at the victims' homes.
Hartman returned to Australia voluntarily to face the charges but was taken into custody as he was traveling on a tourist visa, the court heard.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Muling, who heard that Brother Hartman suffered from arthritis, depression and anxiety, bailed him to live at an address in Melbourne once a criminal justice visa was obtained.
Brother Hartman will face a committal mention at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on November 28.