Victorian Priest Convicted of Sexual Abuse Has Suffered Enough, His Lawyer Says

By Karen Sweeney
7 News Australia
July 8, 2019

Storm clouds form over the the Catholic Church's St. Mary's Cathedral in the CBD, Sydney. FileImage: AAP

A Victorian pedophile priest has admitted to more offending, but his lawyer argues he shouldn't be given a longer jail sentence because he's already been vilified.

Robert Claffey, 76, is serving more than a decade in prison for sexual crimes against children, but on Monday he admitted abusing another two boys when he was a parish priest in Ballarat in the 1980s.

Prosecutors have called for a lengthier non-parole period as Claffey's victim count rises.

But his lawyer appealed for his release date to remain the same because he's already been "hunted" by the media and vilified by the community after being moved from parish to parish by the Catholic Church while he offended.

One of the victims was aged between 12 and 15 at the time he was abused, the other was aged between six and seven.

Claffey was a priest at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Wendouree and abused his first victim while providing counselling to the boy in his bedroom.

Like a confessional

He kissed, touched and abused the boy.

Then he used religion to ensure the boy's compliance, telling the teen their talks were secret - like confession - and it would be a sin to tell anyone.

The younger boy was molested twice by Claffey.

He's a 'different man'

Claffey's lawyer Alan Hands said there was a degree of persistence about his client's offending, and that this abuse occurred in the middle of a series of crimes for which he is currently serving a minimum 13-year sentence.

He'll be 89 before he's first eligible for release and is a "different man" now to what he was then, Hands said.

While prosecutors want more time added to Claffey's non-parole period, Hands argued against that because the priest had been "hunted" from parish to parish for years because people knew what he'd been doing.

"Everyone knew in the western district Mr Claffey was being moved from diocese to diocese," he said.

"He had to live with that."

But County Court Judge Paul Higham baulked at the suggestion that should help the convicted abuser's case.

'Blameless life'

"Had the response of those above him been different, he might have been prosecuted then," the judge pointed out.

Claffey wrote a letter to his victims apologising for the hurt he caused.

Hands said Claffey had lived a "blameless life" since receiving counselling and becoming a lay priest at his own request in 1994.

One of the complainants is set to face Claffey in court on Friday when the pre-sentence hearing continues.








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