Sunday, December 19, 2010

Parole officer praises paedo priest Nigel Hunt, Emily Watkins From: Sunday Mail (SA) December 18, 2010 2:26PM
Former Anglican priest Wilfred Edwin Dennis was convicted for molesting two altar boys in 1970. Picture: Tom Lee Source: The Advertiser
AN ex-parole officer has admitted providing a reference for a paedophile priest to be reinstated.
Paedophile priest Wilfred Dennis was reinstated by the Anglican Church after one of the state's most senior parole officers wrote a glowing letter of endorsement direct to the then Archbishop of Adelaide, it has been revealed.

The reference, which has been obtained by the Sunday Mail, urges former archbishop Dr Thomas Thornton Reed to "give favourable consideration" to returning Dennis to the ministry following the completion of his parole.

The reference was written by Robin Durant, then the senior probation and parole officer with the Adult Probation and Parole Service, which is now known as the Community Corrections Division of the Correctional Services Department.

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When Mr Durant retired a decade ago he was head of the CCD. He is now a relief member of the Parole Board of SA.

Mr Durant wrote the reference on May 26, 1971 - just two days before Dennis's supervision period was due to expire.

In 1970, aged 35, Dennis was found guilty of two counts of indecently assaulting two altar boys. He was jailed for six months with a further six months supervised parole.

Durant, of Brighton, confirmed to the Sunday Mail he wrote and signed the letter, saying: "That's definitely me, but I wrote hundreds of those."

When asked if he remembered Dennis or seen stories about him in the news, Mr Durant said he had not - and would not comment further.

In the reference Mr Durant says he had been requested by Dennis to write and inform Archbishop Reed that his supervision period was about to expire. Although he penned the reference, Mr Durant admits in the reference that his own contact with Dennis has been limited to "the latter months of his supervision" and provides no detail on what, if any, rehabilitation initiatives Dennis had been subject to.

"I have, however, been most favourably impressed with his attitude and sincerity in re-establishing himself within the community and his wish to continue to serve his fellow man," Mr Durant states.

"I am aware that he hopes to eventually return to the Ministry and I trust that you might give favourable consideration to this at the appropriate time."

As a direct result of the reference Dennis was returned to the ministry in late 1971, which again placed him in direct contact with young boys.

Between 1975 and 1976 Dennis abused another altar boy and between 1977 and 1978, abused another two altar boys. Dennis, now 75, is still serving a 20-month sentence for his second bout of offending, but has not been sentenced for the 1977-78 offences after being found guilty of three counts of indecent assault and four of unlawful sexual intercourse.

In the District Court on Wednesday Judge Paul Rice slammed the Anglican Church for reinstating Dennis, stating it appeared the church had "swept" his previous sex offending "under the carpet".

Anglican Archbishop Jeffrey Driver said there was "no way" any church employee convicted of sexual offences would be reinstated today.

"We have very strict child-protection processes in place and our screening and selection criteria for clergy and lay workers has been tightened considerably," he said.

It is understood the church, which has paid more than $5 million in compensation to abuse victims in recent years, is negotiating compensation with Dennis's victims.

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