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  College "Warned" over Priest

By Nigel Hunt
Adelaide Now

August 2, 2008

http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,24119856-5006301,00.html

CONCERNS were raised about the conduct of disgraced priest John Mountford before he was hired by St Peter's College in 1990, court documents have revealed.

A fresh statement of claim lodged in the District Court alleges the Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide at the time, Reverend Keith Rayner, was warned Mountford wanted to show students at a Papua New Guinea college "blue videos".

The warning came in a letter from the Archbishop of PNG Bevan Meredith in May 1990 and was passed to then St Peter's College headmaster Dr Tony Shinkfield, who wrote to Mountford asking for an explanation.

The letters, obtained by the Sunday Mail, detail concerns the former Archbishop and Dr Shinkfield had over the allegation about Mountford.

However, following written and verbal assurances from Mountford that the allegation concerning the pornographic videos was "totally untrue", his appointment as chaplain went ahead in June 1990.

In February 2005, Mountford was charged with the sexual abuse of a student at St Peter's College in 1991 and 1992. He was extradited from Thailand to face the charges, but in August last year, they were withdrawn because of the victim's mental state.

The victim launched a civil claim against St Peter's College in 2006, but it stalled because of the criminal case.

The filing of the amended statement of claim follows the breakdown of renewed negotiations between the college and lawyers acting for the man.

The amended claim says the school is vicariously liable for Mountford's actions and was negligent and breached its duty of care towards him because it was "warned" that Mountford "had faced prior allegations of sexual abuse overseas". "The defendant had actual knowledge of sexual improprieties of Mountford in that it received a letter from Archbishop Bevan Meredith of Papua New Guinea on or about 26 May 1990 (and prior to employing Mountford) . . .

"The Deacon Curate said `. . . his problem Mountford's was that he wanted to show the students blue videos . . I felt I ought to warn you of the problem'."

The claim says as a result of the warning, the defendant had a duty to take action to protect its students from sexual abuse by Mountford.

It says the school was in breach because it allowed Mountford to be alone with students in the chapel and failed to supervise his activities.

It was also in breach "by having an inadequate understanding and attitude toward child sexual abuse, including a lack of knowledge of child sexual abuse perpetrators".

The claim states the school had employed Mountford despite the warning and "did not make any inquiry with the Deacon Curate of PNG" over what he had done about the video claim. It had "simply put the allegations to Mountford and accepted his denial of them and did not investigate, or properly investigate . . ."

St Peter's College was served with the fresh statement of claim on July 22 and has 14 days to lodge a defence with the District Court.

St Peter's College headmaster Philip Grutzner yesterday said he could not comment directly on the fresh claim because he had not yet seen it.

He said the school was committed to mediating the claim and "reach a settlement that is fair and on a pastoral basis". "St Peter's College is concerned about any form of child abuse and will continue to ensure our policies and pastoral care are of the highest standard," he said. "Our offer to meet with the victim continues."

 
 

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