Father F arrested for alleged sex abuse

FOR months police have been actively investigating numerous complaints of child sexual abuse following their coverage in the media.

Yesterday, detectives knocked on the door of a defrocked priest and arrested him, alleging he had sexually and indecently abused three girls in the 1970s and 1980s.

By the afternoon's end the 59-year-old was in the dock of Armidale Local Court facing 25 child sex abuse charges, accused of molesting them between the ages of five and 18.

But the search for victims is not over. Following his arrest, police also urged anyone with information about the alleged role played by the Catholic Church in covering up the abuse to come forward.

Strike Force Glenroe, made up of detectives from the sex crimes squad, began investigations in July after a number of claims about Father F, who cannot be named for legal reasons, other clergy and a ensuing cover-up by the Catholic Church were first broadcast on the ABC's Four Corners program.

The commander of the squad, John Kerlatec, said only time would tell whether charges would be forthcoming.

''At present the investigations are into allegations of sexual assault [but] there are other aspects of the investigation that will touch on the matters raised,'' Superintendent Kerlatec said.

''It's certainly early days in regards to … the alleged cover-up that has been suggested.''

It is understood that Strike Force Glenroe has more than 50 witnesses, including complainants, their families, friends and those who have known Father F over many years.

Father F was refused bail yesterday and will reappear in Armidale Local Court again on November 7.

The alleged victims have welcomed the arrest, police said.

''They certainly had a sense of relief,'' Superintendent Kerlatec said.

''A sense of relief and respect that police were able to firstly listen to what they had to say, investigate the allegations raised and take the matter to [this point].''

Father F was removed from public ministry after a meeting with three clergy in 1992, following continued allegations of abuse after he was moved from the Armidale diocese to Parramatta.

The three priests now all occupy senior positions in the church, which has denied a cover-up.

Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam had been appointed by the Bishop of Armidale, Michael Kennedy, and Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, to lead its own inquiry into the church's handling of the case.

Bishop Kennedy said in a statement the diocese was offering its full co-operation and assistance to police.

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