Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Accused priest denies assaulting boys July 28, 2010

Accused priest denies assaulting boys July 28, 2010 - 4:29PM

A Catholic priest has told a court he doesn't remember the schoolboys he's accused of indecently assaulting and only once entered a dormitory after lights out.

James Patrick Jennings, 77, is charged with six counts of indecent assault against four boys aged about 12 in the early 1960s, at St Stanislaus Catholic College.

Jennings, then aged his late 20s, was the dean at the school at Bathurst, in regional NSW.

Allegations include that at night he would walk through a dormitory where the boys slept and sometimes sit on beds and fondle their genitals.

Giving evidence in a jury trial at Sydney's Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday, Jennings "absolutely" denied the allegations.

Under questioning from his lawyer Gregory Farmer, Jennings said he had "no recollection" of the alleged victims, whose identities are suppressed by the court.

"What do you say to (one complainant's) evidence that you asked him if he had had a sex lesson?" Mr Farmer asked.

"I completely deny his whole story," Jennings replied.

Mr Farmer then said: "Including his assertion that you asked 'do you know what a stiffy is?' and that during the course of that (interaction) there was some fondling and your penis was exposed?"

"I absolutely deny that," Jennings replied.

He told the court he did not "touch" any students at St Stanislaus, where his younger brother was also a boarding student and slept just metres from where the assaults are alleged to have occurred.

He also denied entering the dormitory where boys slept.

"Do you recall ever going into the dormitory after lights out?" Mr Farmer asked.

"On one occasion - the night I took (a boy) back to the hospital because of his tonsils. He had a tonsil operation and they had started to bleed," Jennings replied.

In earlier submissions, the prosecution said Jennings' intention through his alleged actions was to "obtain some kind of sexual gratification".

The trial continues before Judge Robert Toner.

© 2010 AAP

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