Vic pedophile priest to be sentenced

Channel Nine News
July 18, 2019

A Victorian pedophile priest who used "the disguise of holy orders" to access and molest children will spend at least an extra year in jail after confessing to more historical sex crimes.

Robert Claffey, 76, "mocked the priestly authority" in a faith that he "pretended to practise" when he molested two young boys in Ballarat during the 1980s.

The now-blind pedophile was already serving at least 13 years and four months' jail of a maximum 18 years and four months' term for sexually abusing 12 boys and girls aged as young as five, between 1969 and 1992.

But he will now spend at least an extra 12 months on top of that in jail, following the more recent allegations, which he confessed to earlier this month after having spent two years denying them.

He will be nearly 88 at his earliest date for release.

Claffey was aged 38 to 41 when he abused the two boys while parish priest at Ballarat's Our Lady Help of Christians.

One of the children was aged between 12 and 15, and the other boy was aged six to seven.

On Thursday, County Court Judge Paul Higham condemned Claffey's "gross sense of entitlement".

"Your clerical collar afforded you the respect and deference of the faithful. You used the disguise of holy orders of the faith that you pretended to practise," he said.

"Your priestly role provided you with various opportunities for access to your victims and ... you indulged your deviant desires and sexually offended against them."

Judge Higham spoke of how the hands that celebrated the Holy Eucharist were the same hands that "defiled children".

"Your offending not only grossly abused the particular trust that had been placed in you ... but mocked the priestly authority that you purported to exercise."

Claffey molested the older child during "counselling" sessions, at one point threatening that he knew the boy's principal and could get him moved to another school.

He also told the boy their time together was "like confession and that it was a sin to tell anyone what you said to each other".

The Catholic Church became aware of Claffey's behaviour during the 1980s but moved him from "parish to parish" throughout western Victoria.

At one point, Claffey was installed by the church as a replacement for notorious pedophile Gerald Ridsdale at a coastal parish, where one child was abused by both men.

Judge Higham sentenced Claffey on Thursday to an extra one year and three months in jail on top of his current prison term, with a non-parole period of one year, bringing his total minimum jail time for all offending to 14 years and four months.



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