An 88-year-old retired priest will spend at least one year in prison for sexually assaulting a boy in his care more than 40 years ago.
James Henry Scannell, who has worked as a priest across Melbourne for half a century and was a chaplain at Kew Cottages, was on Thursday jailed for two years, to serve a minimum of 12 months, for sexually assaulting a boy in Kew between 1970 and 1972.
Scannell, who is of poor health, had trouble getting to his feet and used a walking stick when led out of the County Court dock by security, as some of his large group of supporters cried.
Outside court, Bernard Barrett, from the victims’ support group Broken Rites, said Scannell was still working up until early last year, when he was suspended by the church pending the result of the trial. Dr Barrett called on the church to explain why Scannell’s offending was covered up for so long.
“Questions need to be asked of the Melbourne archdiocese about why and how this sort of thing could have happened and how it’s taken all these years for it to come out,” he said.
“Why is it that victims always feel they must remain silent when the offender is a priest or some sort of church person?
“It’s all covered up until one brave victim finally agrees to talk to detectives. Most church victims are intimidated into silence for 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.”
Scannell was in June found guilty of a single count of buggery, related to his attack on an altar boy who was aged between 11 and 13 and was working at the priest’s then home in Kew for pocket money.
The court heard Scannell took the boy into the man’s bedroom, told him to undress and sexually assaulted him. Afterwards he ordered the boy to shower, to take confession and to never tell anyone of the assault.
It was not until 2010 that the victim disclosed details of the attack, after he learnt Scannell was to conduct the funeral of the victim’s aunt, who had years before arranged for her nephew to work at the priest’s home.
Judge David Parsons said the offending was a breach of trust of the victim and his aunt “in a most shocking way” and that prison was the only appropriate punishment.
Judge Parsons said the victim had battled years of alcohol abuse and was left feeling devastated whenever he returned to church to attend weddings or funerals.
“I have lost my religion. I lost this on the day I was molested,” the man said in a victim impact statement.
The court heard Scannell had worked with autistic children and the terminally ill, but now faced the shame and ignominy of ending his career in prison. He continued to deny the offence, Judge Parsons said.
The judge said jail would weigh heavily given the man’s age and poor health, but that general deterrence was the most important factor to consider in sentencing.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.