Saturday, September 4, 2010

Former priest jailed on sex charges


His victims think he's evil and creepy and the Catholic Church has expressed sorrow and regret for the suffering inflicted by pedophile former priest Charles Alfred Barnett.

In the South Australian District Court on Thursday, Barnett, 69, was jailed for at least four years, after pleading guilty to three counts of indecent assault and two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse.

The offences dated from about 1977 to 1994, with most occurring at Crystal Brook, north of Adelaide, while Barnett was posted within the diocese of Port Pirie.

His victims were four boys aged between 13 and 15 and sentencing Judge Paul Rice said they had told the court of the devastating impact of Barnett's offending.

Judge Rice said one considered Barnett to be evil and "life and soul destroying", while another described Barnett as a "creep, like a snake".

The current Bishop of Port Pirie, Greg O'Kelly said he wanted to express his profound sorrow and regret to all Barnett's victims.

"It saddens me greatly that someone in whom young people had put their trust could act this way and cause so much suffering and anguish," he said in a statement.

"Complaints against Barnett were conveyed through the church to police in 1996 and today's sentencing is genuinely welcomed as an important step in a long healing process, which will continue through our ongoing support for victims."

Bishop O'Kelly said it remained church policy to encourage anyone who had any complaint about criminal matters relating to church personnel to contact police.

Barnett left the church in 1995 and went to live in Indonesia, where he worked as a teacher and also set up a garment factory.

More information on his offending was revealed in 2006, prompting Australia to make a request the following year for his extradition.

Barnett was arrested by Indonesian authorities in early 2008 and, after spending a year in custody, was returned to Australia in February last year.

Judge Rice said a psychiatric assessment found Barnett had been involved in a profound betrayal of trust and had abused his position of pastoral authority.

"You knew what you were doing was legally and morally wrong, not the least because you were a Catholic priest," the judge said.

He reduced Barnett's sentence by a year, to reflect the time he had spent in custody in Indonesia, imposing a jail term of six years and six months, with a non-parole period of four years, backdated to February last year.