Witch-Hunt Accusation in Paedophile Case

By Amy Coopes
Canberra Times
September 16, 2008

The former principal, vice-principal and chaplain of a NSW boys' boarding school have pleaded not guilty to involvement in a paedophile ring, with their lawyer labelling the case a "witch-hunt".

Peter William Dwyer, John Gaven and Brian Spillane are at the centre of paedophilia claims made by a group of former students of Bathurst's St Stanislaus Catholic College.

Dwyer, 65, and Gaven, 66, were principal and vice-principal of the central west NSW school when they are alleged to have indecently assaulted teenage boys in their care in the 1970s and '80s.

Spillane is facing 93 charges relating to 16 victims aged as young as 11, who claim he molested them and forced them to perform sex acts upon each other during late-night prayer and chanting sessions at the school.

Bathurst Local Court was told yesterday the number of Spillane's alleged victims was likely to more than double.

Both he and Gaven are accused of being present at a 1987 incident when a 13-year-old boy was forced to kiss, fondle and masturbate a group of four other students.

Dwyer, of Armidale, faces four charges relating to the same boy, while Gaven faces 28 charges.

Barrister Greg Walsh entered not guilty pleas yesterday to all 125 charges faced by the three men, saying they "strenuously asserted" their innocence.

He told reporters his clients were the victims of a "witch-hunt" incited by "mass hysteria" and "moral panic" in the press.

"These three men are innocent," Mr Walsh said outside court.

"The allegations are bizarre and they have arisen in very suspicious circumstances."

Mr Walsh said current students of the college were unable to walk down the main street without being vilified.

Earlier he had successfully requested that Magistrate Thomas Hodgson relax the men's bail conditions, saying they were of good character.

Gaven did Outreach work with AIDS patients, while Spillane, who has retired from the Vincentian order, had a young son and was very distressed by the claims, he said.

Elizabeth Walker, for the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions, told the court she expected the case against Spillane would expand to concern up to 40 victims. A total of 18 former students have been named as victims of the three men.

Mark Ireland, a lawyer and spokesman for the school's old boys' association, said there had been a groundswell of support for the teachers.

"As an ex-student who has been taught by these men ... not one person that I have spoken to will believe these allegations," Mr Ireland said.

"There's been nothing happened at St Stanislaus throughout the various eras."

One of the complainants, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he was not surprised by the not guilty pleas.

Now in his 30s, the man told reporters he was expelled after complaining of abuse in 1986 and spent the next two decades fighting the indifference of the school, the Church and police.

"I witnessed 60 victims at that school," he said.

"It's just typical.

"The Church has been maintaining that response for 100 years."

The man, who claims Spillane raped and molested him when he was 13, said it felt good to confront him in court.

Spillane, dressed in a suit and panama hat, was the only one of the three accused to appear in court yesterday.

Gaven and Dwyer were excused from attending.

The case will return to court on November 10.

A fourth man is accused of abusing a 13-year-old student when he was a teacher at the Anglican All Saints College in Bathurst in the 1970s.

He is also due to appear in the Bathurst Local Court court on November 17.


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