John Barry Gwillim

Posted: November 7, 2012 by Serendipity in Photo, Suspended Sentence, Victoria
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Priest walks free on sex assault charges

By Dan Silkstone
December 16, 2003

A Catholic priest who sexually abused a schoolboy and said celibacy was to blame for his indiscretions walked free from the County Court yesterday after being given a suspended sentence.

John Barry Gwillim, 71, was a model priest, popular with his flock at St Peter’s Church in East Keilor and a gifted arranger of hymns, Judge Fred Davey said.

But Father Gwillim had an unholy secret, one that took more than 20 years to emerge.

Judge Davey said Father Gwillim met the boy, then 15, for sexual encounters in his car, in a motel room and at his presbytery during late 1979 and early 1980.

Judge Davey said Father Gwillim was unlikely to reoffend and wholly suspended his sentence of two years and eight months. “In any event, you will serve another sentence, the sentence of a disgraced priest whose good works will be forgotten,” he said. “The memory of your disgraceful conduct will blot your good deeds from people’s memories forever.”

Father Gwillim left St Peter’s in 1999 and has since worked as a relieving priest. He is on sick leave from the archdiocese.

The president of victim support group Broken Rites, Chris MacIsaac, yesterday called on the archdiocese not to reinstate him. “This is just another example of a pedophile priest,” she said. “It’s been 10 years since people started coming forward with these stories. How many more are there?”

The encounters began in late 1979 when Father Gwillim met the boy and offered him a lift home from a swimming lesson.

Judge Davey said Father Gwillim stopped his car in a Parkville side street and asked if the boy “wanted to do something nice for him”. He then directed the child to perform oral sex.

Father Gwillim began regularly collecting the boy from his swimming lessons. The pair performed sexual acts on each other in the car, at a motel and in the presbytery at St Peter’s.

Father Gwillim pleaded guilty last week to five counts of indecent assault on a child under 16 and four counts of gross indecency with a child under 16.

In July, the priest told police: “If we could do away with celibacy this would all go away. It was the sort of thing (where there was) a lovely slice of cake and I bloody well ate it.”

Judge Davey said Father Gwillim had not used his position to influence the boy, who initially did not know he was a priest. He said that Father Gwillim had otherwise led an exemplary life.

Monsignor Les Tomlinson, from the Melbourne Archdiocese, said Father Gwillim had been formally stood down when the charges were laid. He would not be restored as a practising priest but there were no plans to formally remove him.


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