AN 11-year-old altar boy was sexually assaulted in a Bathurst Cathedral toilet by former St Stanislaus College dormitory master Richard McPhillamy more than 10 years after a Vincentian Brother caned a distressed St Stanislaus student who tried to report McPhillamy as a sexual abuser.
“It’s what I’ve been saying all along. This was a well-organised paedophile ring at the school and they knew what was happening. If something had been done about McPhillamy then that altar boy mightn’t have been a victim all those years later,” said former St Stanislaus student Damien Sheridan, who moved to Newcastle after he was sexually assaulted by notorious St Stanislaus chaplain Brian Spillane.
Details of McPhillamy’s offences against two former St Stanislaus students and the 11-year-old were revealed on Wednesday after he appealed his conviction in 2015 for offences at the cathedral by arguing the two former St Stanislaus students’ evidence should not have been put to a jury.
The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed his appeal in the same week the college, the Vincentian Brothers and the Catholic Church are being strongly criticised over an apology at the school on Friday to survivors of decades of child sex crimes at the college.
Holding a prayer service at the school where the crimes occurred would be “inherently re-traumatising” to many survivors, said Dr Cathy Kezelman, the president of one of Australia’s peak survivor groups, the Blue Knot Foundation.
The Vincentians’ decision to hold the apology on the day the order’s founder, St Vincent de Paul, was made a saint showed “the institutional religious affiliation is being prioritised, and not the victims”, Dr Kezelman said.
McPhillamy, a former trainee priest, showed no remorse and no contrition and continued to deny indecently assaulting two former St Stanislaus students in 1985, when the students were aged 13, and having sexual intercourse and sexually assaulting the 11-year-old on several occasions in 1995 in a Bathurst Cathedral toilet. He pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography on his computer showing naked young boys masturbating.
While sentencing McPhillamy in 2015 for the cathedral offences, a NSW District Court judge noted McPhillamy had “sought occupations or engaged in activities which could reasonably be anticipated to bring him into contact with young males, such as being a housemaster at St Stanislaus, a boarding college for male students, and being an acolyte of the Catholic Church in charge of altar boys and girls”.
McPhillamy had also been a scout leader from 1995 to 2000 and a school bus driver.
The Court of Criminal Appeal decision on Wednesday noted that in 1985 McPhillamy indecently assaulted a St Stanislaus student in his private room and the student swore at him and called him a “dirty pervert”.
The boy, 13, “tried to tell one of the Brothers what had happened, but was instead caned for having sworn at” McPhillamy, the decision noted.
In his appeal McPhillamy argued the evidence of the former St Stanislaus students should not have been put to the jury in the Bathurst cathedral trial and he had suffered a miscarriage of justice because of it. He also appealed because the District Court judge had not given reasons for allowing the former students’ evidence.
The appeal was rejected by two of the three Court of Criminal Appeal judges who said there was no miscarriage of justice. A third judge said the matter should be re-tried.
McPhillamy was sentenced to six years’ jail for the cathedral offences against the 11-year-old, with an earliest release date of February, 2019.
Mr Sheridan, who was at St Stanislaus College in 1985, said it was well known among students that McPhillamy had too-close contact with young students, made sexual comments to them and “was generally a filthy piece of sleaze”.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that when a student tried to report what he was doing to a Brother, that he was caned. If you’re the offender and you know that’s what will happen if boys say anything, you become more brazen,” Mr Sheridan said.
The District Court judge in 2015 noted that the second Bathurst cathedral offence, which left the 11-year-old altar boy crying in distress before having to attend a Mass with McPhillamy, was “more forceful”, and McPhillamy impressed upon the victim not to tell anyone.
McPhillamy also told the boy he was gay because of the abuse, he had to be “careful about disclosing what had happened because everyone would turn against him”, and that “people like us need to stick together”.
The District Court judge said the offences against the altar boy were particularly serious because the child was sexually innocent and under the authority of McPhillamy.