The dirty secret of our criminal justice system

Sydney Morning Herald

June 1, 2015

Phil Cleary

In my 1998 book Cleary Independent, I wrote of feeling “a shock wave of apprehension when a Christian Brother opened the door one night at a retreat and asked, ‘Do you need to be tucked in?’ The same bloke had earlier taken me to the presbytery for what he called a ‘vocational talk’. When he inquired as to the level of my sexual knowledge and the operations of particular parts, I sought my leave.” It was 1966 and I was 13 years of age when I escaped the Brother’s clutches.

After reading the book, “Tim” sent me an email saying that the Brother in question, Keith Weston, had routinely masturbated him and a number of other boys at St Joseph’s College, Pascoe Vale. I’d not named Weston for fear of defamation action had the rumour mill been wrong about his abuse of young boys. In 2004, 81-year-old Weston pleaded guilty to molesting the boys, but due to prostate cancer and failing health received a suspended two-and-a-half-year jail sentence. That prompted a letter from one of the boys which in part read: “We nailed old ‘Tex’ Keith Weston … an evil, prolific, cruel, mean, predatory, paedophile …”

I can’t properly explain why I didn’t tell my parents, or someone didn’t blow the whistle on Weston (who is now dead). It’s hard to believe other Brothers or those in the top echelons of the Church didn’t know about his abuse at various Catholic schools. I’ll never forget the fear that gripped us when he went on the warpath after a few drinks over lunch.

Watching Catholic priest Gerald Ridsdale last week tell the royal commission into institutionalised responses to sexual abuse that his crimes were a consequence of a disease, brought back the dark memories. It was nauseating. Like Weston, Ridsdale wasn’t a victim of some disease. He was just another bad bastard misusing power for no other reason than personal gratification. So while it was important to hear from Ridsdale, he should never have been allowed to assume victimhood and should have been rebuked when he did.

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