Aug. 27, 2013, 5:16 p.m.
By Adam Cooper
Pleaded not guilty: David Edwin Rapson. Photo: Justin McManus
A jury has been told the “lapse of time” from offences allegedly committed by a former Catholic priest will make it hard for him to be found guilty of sexually abusing eight teenage boys.
Defence counsel Shaun Ginsbourg, in his closing address to the County Court in the trial of former Salesian College priest David Edwin Rapson, told the jury the allegations dated back too far for a jury to find them true.
Mr Rapson, 60, has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of indecent assault and five counts of rape related to alleged incidents between the mid 1970s and 1990 while he was a priest at the boarding school in Rupertswood.
One of the complainants alleges he was raped on four separate occasions in 1990.
The jury will begin deliberations on Wednesday.
Mr Ginsbourg said the age of the allegations, along with supporting evidence and a lack of witnesses, made it difficult for jurors “to accept these allegations beyond reasonable doubt”.
“It makes it hard for you to convict Mr Rapson on the age of the complaints … a generation has passed,” he said.
“The lapse of time should make you more careful in accepting that these allegations are true.”
The trial has previously heard Mr Rapson drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes with the boys and lured them to his office with the offer of playing computer games.
Mr Ginsbourg acknowledged that in doing that, Mr Rapson had “crossed the line” in terms of mixing with children, “but that doesn’t make him a sex abuser”.
He said there were inconsistencies in the complainants’ evidence, and variously described the men as confused, unreliable and mistaken.
He said one of the men was motivated in making allegations against Mr Rapson because the complainant was later jailed for sexually penetrating a 16- or 17-year-old child.
Mr Ginsbourg told the jury Mr Rapson had been eager and comfortable to answer questions when interviewed by police, and had denied the allegations when they were first put to him.
“He could have taken the easy option and not answered the questions,” he said.
Judge Liz Gaynor instructed the jury on Tuesday afternoon and told them to begin deliberations on Wednesday morning.
Vic priest abused eight boys, court told
9 News National (news.ninesmsn.com.au)
5:51pm August 26, 2013
A Victorian priest abused eight different boys and assumed he would get away with it, a court has been told.
Salesian priest David Edwin Rapson has pleaded not guilty to eight charges of indecent assault and five counts of rape at Lysterfield College and Rupertswood College between the 1970s and 1990.
Prosecutor David Cordy told the Victorian County Court that the crown’s case against Rapson relied heavily on the testimony of the eight alleged victims.
Mr Cordy said Rapson had abused the boys, sometimes with witnesses around, and assumed he would get away with it.
“You can imagine just the relative power … between the parties,” Mr Cordy told the jury on Monday.
“If anyone said anything, it was just going to be swept under the carpet – that’s the way it was back then.”
Rapson had told police a “pack of lies” when confronted with the allegations, Mr Cordy said.
Defence barrister Shaun Ginsbourg said Rapson denies all of the accusations against him.
He urged the jury to make its decision based on facts and not emotion.
His closing address will continue on Tuesday.
Priest accused of abuse ‘blamed God’
Last updated 17:00 14/11/2012
JUSTIN MCMANU/The Age
ACCUSED: Former Catholic priest David Rapson has been charged with child sexual abuse offences.
A former Catholic priest accused of molesting boys at a Victorian school told a colleague that “God made us this way and it’s his fault”, court documents allege.
David Edwin Rapson, 59, is accused of abusing boys between 1973 and 1990, including at the Salesian College Rupertswood in Sunbury where he was a teacher.
Rapson is facing a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
In a statement tendered on Wednesday, one of the boys alleges he was molested by Rapson in the school infirmary when he was in year 10.
The boy said he was in the infirmary because he had been stung by a bee.
He alleges there were a number of children in the infirmary at the time and Rapson made each drink a cup of Milo.
The boy said the Milo tasted “a bit strong and quite acrid”.
He said he saw Rapson, whom he called Brother Rapson, going to each bed and lifting up the blankets and making derogatory comments about the boys’ penises.
He alleges another priest came into to the room and asked Rapson what he was doing.
Rapson replied: “You know what we do here.”
To which the other priest said: “You’ve really got to resist.”
Rapson replied: “God made us this way and it’s his fault.”
The boy’s statement said Rapson also told the other priest he was the same as him.
A short time later Rapson allegedly molested the boy.
“While he was assaulting me he was saying things like ‘You’re useless, you’re no good’ and things like that,” the boy said in his statement.
The boy, who is now in his 50s, gave his evidence in camera but his statement was released to the media.
Rapson is facing charges including one count of rape and four counts of indecently assaulting a child under 16.
The committal hearing before magistrate Greg McNamara is continuing.
Priest raped schoolboy, Vic court told
The Brisbane Times
15 November 2012
A former Catholic boarding school student felt dizzy after being given a drink by a Victorian priest and woke up to find he was being raped, court documents allege.
David Edwin Rapson, 59, is alleged to have yelled at the boy, “Come back!” in a “voice like the devil” as the boy ran from his office after being raped in the late 1980s.
The priest is now accused of abusing boys between 1973 and 1990, including at the Salesian College Rupertswood in Sunbury, where he was a teacher.
He is facing a pre-trial committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
On Thursday, Rapson’s lawyer Brad Newton unsuccessfully applied to Magistrate Gregory McNamara to suppress further media reporting of the case, arguing it could prejudice his client’s right to a fair trial.
But the court ruled that the matter was in the public interest and there would be some time between the end of the proceeding and jury empanelment in a trial.
In a statement tendered to the court, the former boarder at the Salesian school who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he had gone to Rapson’s office to play computer games when the priest offered him a drink.
He said he was thirsty and drank it quickly.
“After drinking the lemonade I felt a little bit dizzy and then I must have passed out or fallen asleep,” he said in the statement.
“When I woke up I was on the floor in the foetal position right next to the computer desk and felt a large amount of pain in my bottom.”
He alleges Rapson was raping him.
The former student said after Rapson finished raping him and climbed off him, he ran out of the office.
“(Rapson) yelled at me in a voice like the devil and said, ‘Come back!’ I was too scared and just ran all the way back to my dormitory,” he said.
“Once back at my dormitory I got back into my bed and laid there crying. At the time all I wanted was my mum. I cried all night and didn’t get a wink of sleep. I was petrified that he would come back and do something further to me.”
He told his mother that he had been “touched” when he returned home the following week.
“She said to me that I hadn’t and she took me to the doctor to see what was wrong with me,” the boy said.
“I begged mum not to send me back to the school but she thought that I just didn’t want to go back to school and was just putting it all on.”
About a month later the former student, who was then in his early adolescence, was allegedly abused by another priest at the school after he was invited to his office to play computer games.
The committal hearing continues on Friday.
Ex-priest in court on child sex charges
Brimbank & Northwest Weekly (brimbankweekly.com.au)
Nov. 14, 2012, 12:16 a.m.
By Mark Russell
A FORMER Catholic priest has appeared in court accused of sexually abusing boys at the Salesian College Rupertswood in Sunbury.
David Edwin Rapson, 59, appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday charged with one count of rape, five counts of indecent assault, four counts of indecently assaulting a child under 16, and one count of gross indecency. The offences are alleged to have occurred from 1973 to 1990.
Rapson had been a teacher and vice-principal at Rupertswood.
Prosecutor Anne Hassan told the court the charges against Rapson involved seven complainants who had been aged in their early to mid-teens at the time of the alleged abuse.
Ms Hassan said identity was not an issue as the complainants ”clearly identify him as the perpetrator”. She told magistrate Greg McNamara she didn’t oppose Rapson’s defence lawyer, Brad Newton, asking witnesses if they had been abused by other priests at Rupertswood.
Mr Newton said he had subpoenaed Victoria Police for copies of the files on three other former priests at Rupertswood – Father Julian Fox, Father Frank Klep and Father Michael Aulsebrook.
He criticised police for failing to respond to the subpoena relating to Father Fox.
The defence needed the files before cross-examining witnesses in the Rapson case in relation to ”other goings-on” at Rupertswood, he said.
Mr Newton said two of the witnesses to be called had referred separately to Fox and Klep in their statements.
He said since Prime Minister Julia Gillard had announced a royal commission on child sexual abuse, it would be difficult for Rapson to get a fair trial in Australia, let alone Victoria.
Fox is the former college principal accused of abusing students during the 1970s and ’80s. He has been banned from contact with children by the Salesians and now works for the order’s head office in Rome, 10 kilometres from the Vatican.
Kelp is a former college principal who was moved by the Salesians to Samoa in 1998 just before he was to face court on five charges of indecent assault, having served nine months (doing community work) in 1994. He returned to Australia in 2004 and was jailed in 2006 for five years and 10 months.
Father Aulsebrook was boarding master at Rupertswood in the early 1990s and later stood down as principal at the Salesians’ St Mark’s College in South Australia. He was sentenced in 2011 to two years’ jail with 15 months suspended after pleading guilty to assaulting a 12-year-old victim five times.
The first witness to be called on Monday in the Rapson case told the court he had been a student at Rupertswood in 1976.
He remembered one day when one of the brothers told the boys not to get dressed because they were going to have a medical examination.
”We were made to stand in a line and look straight ahead,” the witness, who cannot be named, said in his statement.
”We were all standing in a line with white singlets and our underpants. We were told not to laugh and if we did it would prove that we liked males.”
The witness said the boys were told to pull down their underwear before Rapson walked up to him and grabbed hold of his penis and lifted it up.
”He then fondled my testicles and had a feel for about a minute. I had to look straight ahead and I wasn’t allowed to move. Rapson then moved on to the next boy,” the witness said.
The committal hearing continues.
Mission to defrock sex abuser
The Age (Australia) theage.com.au
July 19, 2004
By Martin Daly
The Pope has defrocked a Salesian priest described as “an offender of the worst kind” following an extraordinary mission to Rome by the Melbourne head of the order, Father Ian Murdoch.
In his first interview since allegations against the Salesians surfaced worldwide, Father Murdoch revealed that he made two trips to Rome to persuade the Vatican to expel David Rapson, who had been sentenced to two years’ jail in 1992 for sex abuse of a 15-year-old student at the Salesian school Rupertswood, near Sunbury.
Father Murdoch also revealed that he had prevented a former head of the order, Father Julian Fox, from returning from Rome to Australia unless he agreed to face his accusers in a case of alleged sexual assault.
The Salesians also paid $35,600 compensation following sex abuse allegations against Father Fox.
Father Murdoch sent the papers to Rapson at his last known address in Sydney for his signature, which is necessary to complete his expulsion. But he has not signed them and, Father Murdoch says, probably never will. “He has disappeared. He is no longer a Salesian and no longer a priest.”
After his sentencing, Rapson made veiled threats from Pentridge to the then head of the order, Julian Fox, that he had stories to tell that could implicate others in the order.
Father Murdoch flew to Fiji to interview Father Fox after allegations against him by two Victorians. “Each time he made complete denials and maintained his innocence,” Father Murdoch said.
The father of one alleged victim wanted to pursue the case, but the victim did not. In the other case, the alleged victim was disbelieved when he lodged a complaint, with tragic consequences for him and his family, according to Father Murdoch. The victim became addicted to drugs and spent time in jail.
Father Murdoch insisted that Father Fox undergo a comprehensive, five-day psychological test. He said the assessment was not definitive. “But it asked a lot of serious questions and, on that basis, he would need to present for an intensive program to address these questions in more depth and for treatment.”
Father Fox was allowed to undergo this program in Rome, but once there he took a second assessment instead of the intensive program. “The second cast doubt on the allegations,” Father Murdoch said.
“On one of my trips to Rome I put it to him that if he wanted to return to Australia, he would have to inform the Archbishop of Fiji (where he worked) that there were two allegations against him and he had to be prepared to face his accusers. He declined.”
Father Murdoch will not allow Father Fox to return to Australia as a priest unless he complies.
Father Murdoch insisted that if Father Fox was to remain in Rome, he could work only in administration and have nothing to do with minors.
The Salesian order became engulfed in a sex abuse scandal after it was revealed recently that it had sent priest Frank Klep to Samoa in 1998, despite him being investigated by Victorian police for sex crimes. This was two years before Father Murdoch became head of the order.
Klep was given the job in Samoa on condition that he had nothing to do with children. But a Melbourne woman spotted him with children and informed Father Murdoch, who immediately contacted Klep.
Klep returned to Melbourne ahead of a deportation order by Samoan authorities and is now facing further abuse charges from his time at Rupertswood. The Samoans are also investigating whether to deport the head of the order in Samoa, Father John M. Murphy, who signed Klep’s visa application that he was of good character and had no criminal convictions. Father Murphy says he did so in good faith and without reading all of the document.
The Samoan Government is also considering deporting Father Jack Ayers, who has been in the country since 1992 and who allegedly committed sex crimes in Victoria. He is said to be seriously ill.
Father Michael Aulsebrook, a former vice-principal at Rupertswood in the early 1990s, recently agreed with Father Murdoch that he should step down as principal of Salesian-run St Mark’s College in Port Pirie, South Australia, until a so far undocumented allegation against him has been resolved.
Father Murdoch says that, far from the order hiding abusers, he has visited Fiji, Samoa and Rome to unravel the extent of abuse, bring abusers to account and prevent abuse happening again.
On one occasion he went to the deathbed of a Salesian brother, Laurence Sweeney, to ask if he was guilty of allegations of sex against a boy and his sister in 1975 at a Salesian club in South Oakleigh. Sweeney admitted abusing the girl, but denied abusing her brother. The order paid compensation in both cases.
Father Murdoch says the spirit in which the order was founded will survive and the Salesians will continue doing what they have always done best: caring for and educating some of the most deprived children in society.
While the Salesians continue to struggle with what has happened, there is comfort, Father Murdoch says, that there are those, including some among abuse victims and their families, “who are still prepared to pray for us”.
In all, Father Murdoch said about 30 complaints of abuse going back several decades had been made since he became head of the order in 2000. Fifteen of those complaints had been found to have some substance, costing the order possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation. About 15 priests and brothers were allegedly involved in those incidents and 10 to 12 other cases dealt with by the order before Father Murdoch took over.
Father Murdoch expressed sincere regret to victims, their families and the many innocent members of his order tarnished by the widely publicised abuse.
“We’re sorry,” said Father Murdoch, who described dealing with the abuse as “a bit like dealing with death”.
Despite the abuse cases, there was no evidence that a ring of pedophiles had been operating in the Salesian order, he said.
But he said he was so sickened by the details of the Rapson abuse and the devastating effect it had on one victim and his family that he resolved that Rapson had to be removed from the priesthood as fast as possible.
In gathering evidence, Father Murdoch went to Melbourne Magistrates Court and pored over documents on Rapson’s sentencing for the sexual assault as Rupertswood. He did the same in the Supreme Court on alleged incidents involving Rapson in Tasmania.
“There is no doubt in my mind that David Rapson is an offender of the worst kind,” he said.
The complex Vatican bureaucracy meant Father Murdoch was restricted to telephone calls, emails and faxes in pressing for the case to be resolved. He does not speak Italian, and feared the process would drag on too long for the good of both the order and abuse victims, who had a right to remedial action.
He decided to press personally in the corridors of power for a speedy resolution and went to Rome, first in 2002 and again last December, to open diplomatic channels in the Vatican and the influential Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The result was that in February the Pope signed a document removing Rapson from the priesthood.