Ex-priest freed because crime he was convicted of didn't exist at time

By Lydia Lynch And Warren Barnsley
Brisbane Times
October 06, 2019

Former priest Michael Endicott arrives at the District Court in Brisbane.
Photo by Dan Peled

A Catholic priest found guilty of indecently dealing with a schoolboy while he has a teacher at Brisbane's Villanova College has been acquitted after the Court of Appeal found the law he broke did not exist at the time.

Michael Ambrose Endicott, 75, was convicted of three counts of indecently dealing with a child in the 1970s and 1980s after a five-day trial in Brisbane District Court in March this year.

At a hearing in April, the Court of Appeal ordered his convictions and 18-month jail sentence be set aside.

In their judgement published on Friday, Court of Appeal president Walter Sofronoff along with Justices Philip Morrison and Elizabeth Wilson explained why.

Mr Endicott's trial was told he was in charge of pastoral care and religious education at Villanova College during the 1970s.

A jury found Mr Endicott indecently photographed his young victim three times, the first time being on a school hiking trip in 1975 when he asked the nine-year-old to accompany him to a creek area in dense bush.

He photographed the student naked, prosecutors told Brisbane District Court.

The trial heard three years later, Mr Endicott photographed him naked in the school tower.

Years later, when the boy was a teenager, Mr Endicott took him into a change room and told him to strip then took photos of him in the shower, the jury heard.

Trial Judge Leanne Clare, who ordered his sentence be suspended after six months, labelled his crime "substantial" because he had taken advantage of a power imbalance with his victim.

However, at the time of the crimes he was convicted of, Queensland law did not consider taking nude photos of a child to be indecent dealing.

To be guilty, Endicott would have had to physically touch the boy, or been touched by the boy.

In 1989 the law was amended, making it an offence to take any indecent photograph of a child under the age of 16 without legitimate reason.




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