More than 30 years after complaint, Catholic priest jailed for sexual abuse of boys

Sydney Morning Herald [Sydney, New South Wales, Australia]

December 10, 2021

By Jenny Noyes

In 1992, Anthony William Caruana faced two separate trials after students of Chevalier College in the Southern Highlands complained to police of his sexual abuse in 1989.

The Catholic priest, who was also a boarding master, rugby coach and band master at the school, had initially been charged with 11 offences against seven boys, but only two charges made it to trial.

With prosecutors at that time legally unable to link the two charges or show evidence to the juries of Caruana’s tendency to sexually abuse the boys under his care, he was acquitted.

Nearly 30 years later, his victims – now totalling 12, many of whom carry psychological scars not only from the abuse, but from being disbelieved – have finally seen justice.

Following a seven-week trial in the NSW District Court, Caruana was convicted in July of 22 counts of indecent assault and four counts of sexual intercourse with a pupil. On Friday, the 80-year-old was jailed for 15 years, with a non-parole period of 10 years.

In her sentencing remarks, Judge Robyn Tupman noted that following complaints arising from the 1989 incidents, Caruana was “almost immediately removed” from his position at the school and sent to Sydney to work as an archivist with the order of the Sacred Heart – a “completely appropriate response made by the order” which kept him away from children and prevented him reoffending.

Anthony William Peter Caruana outside the NSW District Court in May.CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY
Anthony William Peter Caruana outside the NSW District Court in May. CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY

She said there was no evidence to support his claim that he was “ostracised by his order”, and in fact “it appears he has been appropriately and compassionately dealt with by them”.

However, she also noted that there was “apparently a complaint made about his behaviour while he was teaching at Daramalan College in the early 1970s which gave rise to a civil action against him”.

Judge Tupman said there was no further detail before the court on that action, and no indication any criminal proceedings arose as a result. But following the complaint, Caruana spent three years in Papua New Guinea before returning to teach at Australian schools.

“If it be that this behaviour also was of a sexual nature towards children”, Judge Tupman said, it is “troubling” that he was not removed at that stage.

Had he not been granted a position as a teacher, band master, dormitory master and rugby coach at Chevalier College, he would not have had the many opportunities to abuse the trust of the boys who found themselves alone in his care.

The assaults Caruana performed on the boys ranged from groping their genitalia to forcing oral sex and anal penetration on them. He often made use of private spaces – such as the band room, dormitory or his office – and employed “ruses” such as the treatment of sports injuries or “teaching” his victims about their sexual development.

Some of the victims, now aged in their 50s, were clearly distressed when giving evidence to the court – some doing so for the second time. Judge Tupman said one of them had attempted suicide at the age of 21, but survived.

The mother of one of the victims also gave evidence about the “sorrow and shame she feels at not accepting his complaints at the time, and feeling he may have been exaggerating”. During the time he was abusing her son, Caruana told the mother about incidents of his “misbehaviour”.

“This is an indication of the sort of manipulation that regrettably the court accepts is a hallmark of these sorts of offences,” Judge Tupman said.

She said some victims, in their statements to the court after Caruana was convicted, had expressed feelings of relief and optimism that they had spoken out and were finally believed.

“It is to be hoped that even for those who have suffered the most… one outcome of these proceedings will be that they will start to regard themselves as survivors of childhood sexual abuse and not just victims of this offender,” Judge Tupman said.

Appearing via audio-visual link from Long Bay, Caruana showed little emotion as he heard he would spend at least the next 10 years behind bars, a term the judge noted would make up “most, if not all, of the rest of his life”.

He will be eligible for parole on July 13, 2031.

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