Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Swept under the carpet"
Anglican Chruch of South Australia 'swept child sex abuse under carpet' Sean Fewster, Court Reporter From: AdelaideNow December 15, 2010 1:22PM Increase Text Wilfred Edwin Dennis outside the District Court. Pic: Tait Schmaal Source: AdelaideNow
THE Anglican Church swept the sexual assault of altar boys "under the carpet" by allowing a convicted pedophile to work as a priest, a judge says.
District Court Judge Paul Rice today said he was "at a loss" as to why Wilfred Dennis was welcomed back to the church in 1971 - just 12 months after he was found guilty of indecent assault.

"So indecent assault is all right, is it?" Judge Rice asked.

"That's the only conclusion one can come to: that the Anglican Church thought indecent assault was okay - but if it was something more serious, it may have a different view.

"Was he simply moved parish and this matter swept under the carpet?

"It's not as if this was a private confession - this was a public trial, he was convicted and sentenced in public with all the stigma that goes with it.

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"At the moment, I'm at a bit of a loss as to how the church allowed him to be a minister."

Dennis, 75, has been found guilty of three counts of indecent assault and four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse.

It is his third conviction for child sex offences.

In 1970, the Supreme Court found him guilty of indecently assaulting two altar boys.

Then-Justice Roma Mitchell jailed Dennis for six months, saying he would lose his position with the church.

However, Dennis resumed work as a priest in 1971 and went on to abuse one altar boy beteween 1975 and 1976, and two more between 1977 and 1978.

He is currently serving a 20-month sentence for the 1975-76 offences.

Today, prosecutors said Dennis' licence to be a priest had been "conditionally" re-instated in 1971.

They said he was expected to "go back through the various levels of church heirarchy".

Judge Rice said that was clearly the intent.

"Quite how (church officials) managed to justify that to themselves, I don't know," he said.

"I'm just making observations, really - no more than querying how on earth Dennis was in a position to commit these offences against these victims."

George Mancini, for Dennis, said it was "a very different time".

He asked his client be spared a lengthy jail term on account of his poor health and advanced age.

Judge Rice will sentence Dennis in February.

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