Former priest Brian Spillane has been sentenced to nine years in jail for a number of sexual assaults on young girls described by the presiding judge as “serious, planned and callous”.
Sentencing Spillane, 69, Judge Finnane said: “The offender used his position as a priest to gain access to the homes in which each of his victims lived. Because of his position as a priest and because of his standing in the community generally, he was very trusted and the parents of each of the victims readily gave him access to their daughters.”
The assaults began 30 years ago when Spillane was on the staff of St Stanislaus College, Bathurst. After ingratiating himself into the family of two boys at the school, he abused their sister, then aged 11.
“This was the conduct of a violent bully and coward, done without regard to the effect it would have on the young girl,” said Judge Finnane. “It was sexual abuse carried out by a trusted priest, and was a major breach of trust.”
In late 1979, Spillane left the school to become a parish priest in Sydney. Again he ingratiated himself into a devout Catholic family and under the guise of hearing their daughters’ bedtime prayers abused both of them for more than a year.
The judge called this: “Predatory and a major abuse of trust.”
In those same years he assaulted and wrote love letters to a 16-year old student at a Western Suburbs Catholic School.
The judge called the assault “predatory and heartless” and one of the letters “maudlin, full of false piety and completely inappropriate”.
Spillane, who continues to proclaim his innocence, later left the priesthood and married in 2004. His wife was present in the court at sentencing. So was one of his victims who sobbed with relief when the judge sent the ex-priest to jail for nine years with a non parole period of five years.
Next month, Spillane faces the next of several scheduled trials for alleged assaults committed while he worked at St Stanislaus College in the 1970s and 1980s.
At the conclusion of the trial Spillane said: “I’d like to thank the Catholic Church for making it all possible.”
Well, no, he didn’t. But perhaps he ought to.