‘Gross breach of trust’: Catholic priest jailed for child sex abuse

News Corp Australia [Sydney, New South Wales, Australia]

May 9, 2022

By Angie Raphael

An 85-year-old Catholic priest who sexually abused a girl more than 40 years ago has finally learnt his fate in court.

An 85-year-old Catholic priest who sexually abused a girl more than four decades ago has been jailed after a judge said he had “disgraced the church” he served so faithfully.

Richard Joseph Doyle faced a judge-alone trial in the West Australian District Court and was found guilty of four counts of indecently dealing with the child at her home when she was aged between six and 10, dating back to 1979.

Doyle asked the girl to scratch his back and tickled her on various occasions before he sexually abused her, the court was told.

Judge Belinda Lonsdale said during the sentencing hearing on Monday that the victim trusted adults, and particularly priests, describing Doyle’s crimes as a “gross breach of trust”.

“Had your offending occurred only once, it might be said that there was something opportunistic in your conduct,” she said.

“However, I find that you went out of your way to have physical contact with the victim … when you knew that that conduct would not be questioned.”

Doyle’s defence counsel Seamus Rafferty said his client went to the seminary when he was 15 and was ordained as a priest when he was aged 25.

“He became a priest at a very young age, at a point in time in his life where he was obviously very naive in a number of ways, including sexually,” Mr Rafferty said.

“When you put young people into an environment where they cannot express themselves in a sexual way – because of the fundamental tenants of a religion – you are going to have problems.”

Judge Lonsdale acknowledged Doyle had no prior record and should be afforded some mitigation for his advanced age.

“However, the fact that you have not been charged until recently has meant that you have been able to live your life and enjoy the esteem of others within the wider community,” she said.

“The fact that you are now elderly does not mean that you should escape punishment.

“Secondly, there is a need to send a message of deterrence to the wider community that people who exploit children for their own sexual gratification will face severe punishment no matter how old they are.”

Judge Lonsdale further noted that Doyle had served as either an assistant parish priest, a parish priest or a school chaplain at Aquinas College over a period of 55 years before retiring from active ministry in 2006.

“You have now disgraced the church that you have served so faithfully over so many years,” she said.

Doyle, who maintains his innocence, was sentenced to four years in prison.

He was sentenced under the laws of the time, rather than modern laws, and will be eligible for parole after serving two years behind bars.