Goulburn's Strike Force Charish deserves praise | Editorial

Detectives investigating cases of alleged child sexual and indecent abuse have one of the most unenviable tasks.

But for the past four years, a team at Goulburn has been dogged in its investigations concerning allegations of historical sex matters at the former Saint Patrick’s College.

Strikeforce Charish, comprising Detective Senior Constable David Turner (pictured), Detective Sergeant Matt Woods and Detective Senior Constable Mick Calleja, was formed in 2014 for exactly this task.

So far, their work has resulted in three convictions, one of those awaiting appeal, and a not guilty finding. Another is awaiting trial in Sydney District Court early next year.

Four of these have concerned Christian Brothers past and present. The latest, in Goulburn Local Court this week, involved the only lay teacher. This matter is ongoing and we do not preempt the outcome.

It’s an arduous process for all concerned. Investigators must firstly build the trust of alleged victims and collect enough evidence to get the matter to trial. The passage of years can at times prove challenging for both complainants and accused.

The intense focus on institutional abuse through Senate inquiries and Royal Commissions has undoubtedly encouraged more complainants to come forward to police. But the work of detectives shouldn’t be minimised. When they first started investigating Brother William Peter Standen, there was one victim. By the time it went to trial, there were 18 complainants. Sydney District Court sentenced Standen to a nine year, two month prison term in 2016, with a non-parole period of four years. The sentence came more than 36 years after the indecent and sexual assaults on boys aged 12 to 13. 

The trials are usually lengthy and taxing for all parties. Sadly, the common theme in proven cases is the enduring psychological trauma for victims, alcohol and drug abuse and relationship problems. Some have gone on to commit crimes themselves. 

It is one thing to hear of such things but quite another to sit in court listening to their testimony and seeing the raw emotion. As several magistrates have pointed out, the passing of time does not minimise the effect.

Those convicted abused their authority in the most heinous way. The Catholic Church was held in such high regard that in some cases, parents did not believe abuse claims by their children. But Strikeforce Charish detectives have been their saving grace and for this they deserve high praise.

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