Police Suspect Paedophile Network

The Courier-Mail [Australia]
May 30, 2003

A NETWORK of paedophiles appeared to have operated from within the Anglican Church, South Australian police commissioner Mal Hyde said today.

Police today set up a paedophile task force to investigate child sex allegations within the Anglican Church in SA.

Commissioner Hyde said the task force was established after he was contacted by Adelaide Archbishop Ian George about 65 child sex abuse complaints.

The complaints named 17 different offenders, he said.

"Quite clearly, with the number of complaints that we've got and the indication of a very significant number of offenders, or possible offenders, it would suggest there is a (paedophile) network, to some degree, involved," Commissioner Hyde told reporters today.

He said investigations by the task force would be far reaching and include complaints of abuse that allegedly occurred before 1982.

The state government announced it would introduce legislation on Wednesday to remove immunity from prosecution of sex offenders that occurred before December 1982.

Under current SA laws, sex offences committed before then cannot be prosecuted owing to a statutory limitation.

"The government's move will enable police to pursue allegations of child abuse beyond those within the Anglican Church," SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson said.

Commissioner Hyde said he did not yet have specific information about the complaints, such as the age and sex of alleged victims.

The complaints were received through an independent hotline established by the church.

Three detectives and an analyst have initially been assigned to the task force, to be headed by Chief Inspector Grant Stevens.

However, more police officers would be assigned as required, Commissioner Hyde said.

"(The task force) initially will have the task of scoping it (the complaints) out to identify how much we do have to follow through on and to identify the extent of the allegations," he said.

"I expect it to be ongoing and to have quite a deal of inquiries to make."

Archbishop George contacted police on Wednesday night, a week after two Adelaide clergymen called for a public inquiry into the allegations, saying they had information the alleged abuse involved a number of parishes had occurred over almost four decades.

The Reverend Dr Donald Owers and the Reverend Andrew King said the number of alleged victims was between 30 and more than 200.

Archbishop George last night apologised to boys sexually abused by former church worker Robert Brandenburg and said the diocese was ashamed at its lack of compassion.

He repeated the apology in an advertisement in the Adelaide Advertiser today and said: "I want to publicly acknowledge the hurt that has been done to a large number of people, the individuals whom Brandenburg abused and their families who are living with the consequences."

Brandenburg was found drowned soon after being charged by police with sexual offences in 1999.

Mr Atkinson said he did not know how many alleged sex abuse victims would come forward once the immunity from prosecution was removed.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.