Friday, June 26, 2009

(AUS)Honoured Priest Accused of Abusing Males

Original article
by Andrew Drummond

He has dedicated his life to the Catholic church. For years he was a member of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and his work with HIV and AIDS sufferers in Sydney earned him a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1994.

But this week, Father Hugh Edward Murray, 79, was charged with five counts of indecently assaulting males.

Suffering heart disease and too sick to face the charges in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday, a solicitor for Murray said he "vehemently" denied the allegations that he said stemmed from a "police trawl".

Even if the charges are not proven, if Murray is deemed to have "behaved or acted in a manner that has brought disrepute on the Order", the retired priest could be stripped of his OAM.

Police say Murray is the ninth man to be charged over historical child sex offences at boys boarding school St Stanislaus Catholic College (Stannies), at Bathurst in central western NSW.

There are three alleged victims in the matters Murray is charged with, one of whom was a Stannies student.

Police allege the indecent assault against the boy occurred at Bathurst some time between February 6, 1978 and June 1978.

The other charges relate to two victims with four alleged indecent assaults occurring at Sydney and Eastwood between June 1966 and January 1973.

His solicitor Greg Walsh did not enter a plea on Murray's behalf in court on Thursday but later made clear his intentions.

"The allegations are vehemently, strenuously denied," Mr Walsh told AAP on Friday.

The matters involving two of the alleged victims were investigated by police in 1999 and no charges were laid, Mr Walsh added.

"The chances of these charges reaching any conviction is highly unlikely," Mr Walsh said.

"I've got no doubt that the charging of Father Murray is consistent with the police conducting what is a police trawl ... finding and charging any person they can link to what can only be described as a bizarre set of allegations."

Murray, who is on bail, is excused from attending court when the matters are next mentioned on August 20.

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