Former Port Pirie Catholic Church Priest Faces in Court Three Boys He Abused More Than Three Decades Ago
By Meagan Dillon
February 19, 2018
A JUDGE urged a former South Australian priest who used his power, influence and authority to sexually abuse teenage boys more than three decades ago to address his apology to his victims.
Charles Alfred Barnett, 72, appeared in the District Court on Monday ahead of sentencing next month after admitting the persistent sexual exploitation of one boy, and indecent assault of two others.
His three victims all read emotional victim impact statements to the court, expressing how the historic crimes had affected their lives.
Barnett apologised, saying: “Your Honour, I’m deeply aware of the seriousness of my offending”, before Judge Jack Costello interrupted him.
“It is entirely for you as to how you wish to make an apology,” he said.
“I don’t want you to feel that, in any way, you need to address the apology to me if, in fact, you would prefer to face your victims.”
Barnett — who was a Catholic Church priest in Port Pirie at the time — continued to say he understood the pain and hurt he had caused his victims.
“I offer a heartfelt apology to them,” he said.
“When I was in detention among other criminals, it was easy to rationalise and be complacent and say, ‘other people’s crimes were worse than mine’.”
He said since participating in rehabilitation courses, he now understood the full impact of his offences.
“Before I was detained and after I was released, I have made every effort to rehabilitate myself and repay my debt to society.
“And aware of the misgivings of the victims, I pledge that I will never reoffend.”
Prosecutor Mikala Ballard told the court that Barnett’s crimes were “predatory and premeditated”.
“He infiltrated the families and gained their trust through his place in the community, being a priest in the Catholic Church,” she said.
She said the offending happened over an eight-year period and Barnett would sneak in through a window to one of his victim’s bedrooms to abuse him.
In 2010, Judge Paul Rice jailed Barnett for six years and six months with a non-parole period of four years for abusing four boys between 1977 and 1994.
He was arrested in Jakarta in February 2008, and extradited to Adelaide in February 2009.
During that sentence, Judge Rice said Barnett’s crimes had “wrenched the innocence” from his victims.
“One of them says your `depraved and immoral act’ had a massive impact on his life, and called you `evil’,” he said.
“Another calls you `creepy, like a snake’.”