Criminal Law News & Current Affairs

By Ben Aulich & Associates Ben Aulich & Associates


Former Catholic priest Edward Evans found not guilty of molesting a young girl

A jury has found former Catholic priest Father Edward Evans, 85,  not guilty of molesting a young girl in the kitchen of his Braddon home in the 1990s.

The verdict was delivered before Justice Richard Refshauge on the seventh day of an ACT Supreme Court trial, with jurors deliberating for more than eight hours.

The prosecution alleged Father Edward Evans put his hands down the girl’s pants to grab her bottom multiple times, and digitally penetrated her in his home.

He was also alleged to have touched her breast as they sat alone in a car outside a southside shopping centre, before pulling her on top of him into a straddling position.

Father Evans, who plead not guilty to the charges, was in his 60s at the time.

The girl’s family would sometimes attend his German-language masses in Braddon and most of the alleged abuse occurred at morning teas he hosted afterwards.

During her closing submission, Crown prosecutor Sara Gul said the young girl had stayed quiet about her ordeal for almost 20 years because she did not want to ruin her mother’s faith.

Ms Gul said the girl was afraid of coming forward with allegations about a man her mother saw as “the representative of God”.

But defence barrister Steven Whybrow told the court the woman’s evidence was unreliable and inconsistent.

During his closing submission, Mr Whybrow urged the jury to scrutinise the woman’s evidence, including a concession her recollection of hearing Father Evans open a sliding door before molesting her was false.

“She wanted to rewrite history and project herself in a positive life,” he told the jury.

Mr Whybrow said the woman had “a deep resentment and bitterness” for her family and their close association with Father Evans.

“Just because he is a Catholic priest doesn’t mean he is subjected to less evidence than anyone else,” he said.

“This man’s work is now going to be seen in the context of these allegations.”

During the trial, Father Evans admitted to the police he had touched the girl’s bottom but said it had been an affectionate gesture and not sexual.

He told police he thought “she had forgiven me” and all had been “forgiven and forgotten”.

Fathers Evans denied touching the girl’s breasts and said he had tried to avoid her as he thought it “dangerous”.

But Ms Gul told the jury Father Evans was “very affectionate” with children and had a tendency to act on his attraction to the young girl.

She said the woman’s evidence was “as accurately and honestly described as possible” given the alleged assaults happened nearly 20 years ago.

She said the woman did not seek to flatter herself while giving evidence over “gruelling, confronting and emotional days” and did not pretend to be “Joan of Arc”.

On Wednesday morning, Justice Refshauge directed the jury to find Father Evans not guilty of an additional count of sexual intercourse without consent, and the back-up charge of committing an act of indecency.

Mr Whybrow requested the acquittal on Tuesday afternoon after the alleged victim failed to outline the allegation while on the witness stand.