Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Accused Priest Released on bail

Original article

A FELLOW priest put up bail and the Catholic Church offered accommodation to secure the release from custody of a priest charged with grooming a 13-year-old girl for sex.

Robert Fuller, 54, a priest at All Saints Church in Liverpool, in Sydney's southwest, was yesterday charged with grooming and procuring a child under the age of 16 via internet chat sites.

He was arrested in a carpark where he had allegedly arranged to meet the girl. He soon discovered the person with whom he had been talking online was not a teenager but a police detective.

Detectives also executed a search warrant at a presbytery in George Street, Liverpool, where they located and seized computers, documents, photographs and a mobile phone.

A police document tendered during the bail hearing at Parramatta Local Court yesterday alleged that during online chat sessions, Father Fuller had masturbated on web camera and encouraged the girl to masturbate herself. He had also arranged a meeting with the girl.

"During five of the conversations, the (accused) activated his web camera and his face was captured by investigators," police alleged.

The Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, called the news "appalling and distressing" and said he shared "the concern and alarm" of parishioners, parents and the school community.

Father Fuller was immediately stood down from his ministry.

A friend and fellow priest, Father Terry Bell, currently acting as bishop of the Western Sydney diocese, offered $25,000 as bail and accommodation at a church-owned property on the NSW Central Coast in support of Father Fuller's bid for bail.

Magistrate Peter Miszalski granted the priest bail, requiring him to report to police three times a week, surrender his passport, not use the internet and not be in proximity to children. Father Fuller will next appear in the same court on October 8.

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