Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC [Sydney, Australia]
May 8, 2022
By Joanna Menagh
An elderly Catholic priest has been sentenced to four years in jail for sexually abusing a young Perth girl more than 40 years ago after asking her for “back scratches”.
- Richard Doyle abused the girl during visits to her family home
- His lawyer said joining the church left him sexually naive and led to ‘problems’
- Doyle will be eligible for parole after serving half of his four-year term
Richard Doyle, 85, was found guilty earlier this year after a judge-alone trial in the District Court, convicted of four charges of indecently dealing with the girl when she was between 6 and 10 years old.
Doyle was acquitted of another two charges.
The court was told the victim’s family came to know Doyle when he was working in WA’s Wheatbelt region.
When they all moved to Perth, he started visiting the family at their home, with the victim — who is now in her 40s — testifying Doyle initially asked her for “back scratches” while he had his clothes on.
She said the abuse happened after they progressed to him taking his shirt off and lying down on the floor or a bed while she scratched him.
Doyle ‘naive sexually’, lawyer says
Doyle’s lawyer, Seamus Rafferty, told the sentencing hearing his client still maintained the abuse never happened.
But Mr Rafferty said it was accepted that a jail term to be served immediately was the only appropriate penalty.
He said Doyle had entered the seminary to train as a priest at the age of 15 and he was ordained 10 years later at what he described as “the young age” of 25.
“He was very naive, obviously, sexually,” Mr Rafferty said.
“When you put young people into an environment where they can’t express themselves in a sexual way … you are going to have problems.”
Mr Rafferty said as a priest, Doyle had done significant good in the community, but “clearly the convictions” for the crimes had “undone that”.
Abuse left psychological, spiritual damage
State prosecutor Mimi Yeung described the offences as “breaches of trust of the very highest order”.
She said Doyle was in a position of dominance and power and had violated the trust of this girl and her family.
Ms Yeung said the victim had suffered psychological and spiritual damage, and had found it painful and traumatic during the court proceedings to relive what happened to her.
Judge Belinda Lonsdale accepted that because of his advanced age, Doyle was unlikely to re-offend, but said only a jail term would reflect the level of his criminality.
She noted that the maximum sentence for the offences at the time they happened was seven years and that the limit was applicable to Doyle, but if they had been committed now, the crimes would have attracted a maximum penalty of 20 years.
The judge imposed a total sentence of four years on Doyle, with an order he be eligible for parole after serving half the term.