A NEWCASTLE Anglican priest was given a three month suspended jail sentence after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting a 12-year-old boy in 1967.
Reverend Bruce Shaw, 72, was working at a spiritual retreat at Stroud in 2016 when he was charged with the offence which occurred when he was sole teacher and principal at a Victorian primary school.
Wangaratta Magistrates Court was told Shaw was 23 when he invited two young family friends to his rural property for the weekend, and insisted the 12-year-old sleep in his bed.
Six years later Shaw completed his training and became an ordained priest.
He was given permission to officiate in Newcastle Anglican diocese on June 13, 2013.
In a message to clergy this week Newcastle Bishop Peter Stuart said Shaw’s permission to officiate was suspended when the diocese learnt of the charge against Shaw, and his permission had been revoked.
“The diocesan professional standards committee will give further consideration to this conviction in due course,” Bishop Stuart said.
Wangaratta magistrate Ian Watkins said the victim reported the crime to police in October, 2015. Mr Watkins said the report was prompted by publicity around the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The delay in reporting of nearly five decades was “not all that unique for offending of this nature”, Mr Watkins said.
The court heard Shaw was “probably grappling with his own sexuality” when the incident occurred.
In the 1990s the victim wrote to Shaw who admitted the act and sought forgiveness.
Mr Watkins said he had no doubt the victim would have had lasting memories of what occurred and it was a matter of extreme concern that the victim was only 12 years old, but Shaw admitting responsibility after the victim wrote to him would have helped.
“The interaction you had with him in the 1990s where you admitted responsibility and sought forgiveness would have gone some way to healing the pain,” he said.
Shaw’s sentencing came after counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended adverse findings against former Newcastle Anglican bishops, senior clergy and senior lay people after a public hearing in Newcastle in August about the diocese’s response to child sexual abuse allegations over decades.
In a statement after the recommended findings were released Bishop Stuart said final submissions to the royal commission “continue to recount the horrendous experience of children of the diocese and their families”.
“The submissions also point to a failure by the diocese to appropriately respond when people came forward to seek assistance,” Bishop Stuart said.
Recent Newcastle diocese Synod meetings had shown “very clear support to face the past and shape a healthy future”, he said.
“The people of the diocese have spoken with a strong voice that our church must respond well to survivors of abuse and must be a safe place for children.”