Guilty plea from pedophile priest John Denham

CHARGES: Former Catholic priest John Sidney Denham.
CHARGES: Former Catholic priest John Sidney Denham.

PEDOPHILE former priest John Sidney Denham pleaded guilty to a range of child sex offences yesterday and will begin sentence proceedings in Newcastle District Court later this month.

Denham, 66, appeared in Newcastle Local Court yesterday via audio-visual link from Silverwater jail where he has remained since his arrest last August.

He was committed for sentence on 29 charges including indecent assaults and sexual assaults, most of which were committed in the Hunter Region in the 1970s and 1980s. More than 20 other charges will be taken into account when he is sentenced.

The charges relate to 39 victims.

Denham arrived at the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese Mayfield parish in 1972 to take on the role of deacon, a statement tendered to the court said.

He was moved to Singleton in 1973 and became a teacher at St Pius X High School, Adamstown, from 1975 to 1980 when he was moved to Charlestown, then Taree in 1981 and to Waverley College in Sydney where he taught until 1994.

He was then ordered by the church to not have contact with children and was given a job as a librarian at a resource centre in Sydney until his arrest.

The diocese issued an apology yesterday from Bishop Michael Malone and director of schools Ray Collins.

"The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle acknowledges all victims of abuse by church personnel and at this time we particularly acknowledge those people who have been directly or indirectly affected by the abuse of John Denham," the statement said.

"The actions of John Denham and the abuse that many young boys endured have now been partly acknowledged through the court system. We too acknowledge the distress and lifelong impact of these actions on all those affected.

"We offer our most sincere and heartfelt apologies for all instances of abuse perpetrated by John Denham and we express our deep sadness for the pain that resulted and continues to be felt.

"We acknowledge the courage of those who spoke with the police so that justice might be achieved and invite anyone who has been affected by this matter to contact Zimmerman House, the diocesan support service for those affected by abuse by church personnel."

Zimmerman House's toll free number is 1800 234 050.