Judge to Decide If Priest Fit for Trial

WA Today
September 6, 2010

An elderly Catholic priest charged with indecently assaulting two boys more than 50 years ago has dementia and it would be "inappropriate" for him to stand trial, a court has heard.

Hugh Edward Murray, now 81, is charged with five counts of indecently assaulting the boys between 1966 and 1978.

In Sydney's Downing Centre District Court on Monday, Judge Greg Woods heard that Murray, a diabetic who had suffered more than 10 cardiac arrests, was not fit to stand trial on the charges, which he denies.

"He has got dementia, he has got a diagnosis of cognitive impairment," Dr John Albert Roberts said in giving evidence about Murray's health.

Dr Roberts said Murray had his sixth pacemaker fitted in 2006, following a string of heart attacks, and agreed Murray's cardiac history was "lengthy and complex".

"The inevitable outcome of the range of diseases that Father Murray has is degeneration and/or organ damage ... brain, heart and possibly kidneys," he said.

Murray's barrister Charles Waterstreet submitted that his client's medical condition means he is not fit to stand trial.Dr Roberts said: "His capacity to give evidence under the stress of cross examination about matters from several decades ago ... would be deemed to be seriously compromised.

"To ask Father Murray about events that had occurred previously is, in terms of my view ... entirely inappropriate."

Dr Roberts' professional opinion was that Murray's cognitive impairment impacted on his recollection.

The charges against Murray relate to allegations of events that occurred in Sydney and Bathurst, in central western NSW.

In June 2009, Murray became the ninth man to be charged with historic child sex offences linked to St Stanislaus Catholic College, at Bathurst.

Murray, a former NSW Anti-Discrimination Board member and 1994 Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient, has been present for some of the hearing.

Judge Woods will consider his fitness to stand trial.


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