No action on paedophile priest, and vandals target Pell

Shocking details of a priest who abused children in the confessional and threatened parishioners at gunpoint emerged at the Child Abuse Royal Commission last month.

Interior of a old church in Melbourne

Doveton parish priest Father Peter Searson molested children in the confessional, and sexually abused a nine-year-old altar boy every Saturday for six months. Searson paid the boy a pittance to do chores around his home, and told the boy the sexual abuse was the devil punishing him for his sins. Searson was known to carry a gun and a large knife, which he once held to a child’s chest.

Former Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Father Frank Little, who kept secret files about priests’ sexual conduct with adults, failed to act on repeated complaints about Searson, the Commission heard.

Searson’s out-of-control behaviour was never seriously investigated, and he died in 2009 without facing child abuse charges. The local bishop at the time was George Pell, who later became Archbishop of Melbourne, then Cardinal.

Last month, vandals scrawled graffiti critical of Pell across the walls of Melbourne’s Archdiocese building and the County Court building, where the Cardinal is due to front the Royal Commission on 14 December. The graffiti was swiftly painted over.

Hillsong Church’s Senior Pastor Brian Houston also came in for criticism at the Royal Commission for failing to report to police that his father, Frank Houston, had molested young boys in 60s and 70s, before Hillsong was established. Hillsong rejected this claim, saying Brian Houston had acted appropriately.

And the Federal Government was considering holding another Royal Commission, after a Senate committee reported widespread violence against people with disabilities. If a Royal Commission was to go ahead, it would be the fourth such inquiry in just three years.

In the meantime, the Child Abuse Royal Commission urged any victims of sexual abuse at The Kings School in North Parramatta, NSW, and Tudor House Prep School in Moss Vale, to contact the Commission on 1800 099 340. No public hearings into these schools have yet been announced.

About Peter Kelso

I am a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I have been admitted to practice since 1984. I am the principal and founder of Kelso Lawyers which has operated in Newcastle since 1986.

I have been an advocate for compensation for victims of abuse since the commencement of the Victims Compensation Tribunal in New South Wales in 1988. I conduct the largest victims practice in New South Wales. I have a high level of engagement with numerous NGOs such as woman’s refuges, sexual assault services, community organisations and healing centres.

On 31 October 2012 I was a finalist for the Justice Medal, presented by the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales.

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