Robert Patrick Claffey, 73, above, who sexually abused 12 Victorian children over decades in a ‘shameful and protracted abuse of his authority’, has been jailed for 18 years and four months.
He will serve a minimum of 13 years and four months.
He assaulted a seven-year-old girl who was preparing for her first communion in 1969 in the first of “a truly appalling litany of offending” during which he exploited his position of trust.
Claffey went on to assault altar boys and children making preparations for religious ceremonies until 1992.
He pleaded guilty to 19 charges but the Victorian county court judge Felicity Hampel noted that he had offered no apology to his victims – nor shown any remorse.
Claffey was a “paedophilic sexual predator” who groomed parents and children by visiting families, establishing trust and threatening children to keep them quiet, the judge said.
That you were able to act with impunity for such a period speaks volumes for the power you exerted over your victims and the gross nature of the breach of trust of a priest in respect of the children of the parish. The consequences for your victims have been profound and, for many, lifelong.
Speaking outside court after the sentence was passed one of the victims said the sentence was just, fair and tantamount to a death penalty.
This is a person who subjected the children of western Victoria to unbridled and unbroken rape. Bob Claffey has taken a fair portion of everyone’s lives and he deserves to have a fair portion of his life taken from him.
Mulkearns, who has previously avoided testifying in court because of ill health, has long been accused of being responsible for a widespread cover-up of abuse under his watch in Ballarat between 1971 and 1997.
Former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, above, was earlier this year forced to give evidence at a Magistrates Court committal hearing in relation to Claffey’s case.
Mulkearns has previously admitted mishandling cases of sexual abuse while in charge at Ballarat.
It has been alleged before the child abuse Royal Commission hearings that he routinely shuffled priests around the diocese after complaints were made about them.
It has also been alleged that Mulkearns destroyed documents relating to sexual abuse matters.
Giving evidence in Claffey’s hearing he conceded complaints were made about the priest. He said he remembered that Claffey:
Had been misbehaving … in a sexual way.
The court heard the father of one complainant told Mulkearns in 1989 his son had been having behavioural problems, and that Claffey had “misbehaved” with him.
According to court documents Bishop Mulkearns called a meeting with Claffey and the priest resigned, effective immediately.
Hat tip: Peter Sykes