‘It’s been 33 years in the making’: ex-priest charged over sexual abuse

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The Sydney Morning Herald

May 1, 2012 – 2:36PM

Nick Ralston, Lisa Davies

Sexual abuse complainant, Nikki Wells says she’s relieved that a retired Catholic priest has been charged over the alleged sexual abuse of four children.

A retired Catholic priest and a one-time close personal friend of the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, has been charged over alleged sexual abuse of four children in the 1970s and ’80s.

Father Finian Egan, 77, who maintains his innocence, arrived at Ryde police station by appointment shortly before 11am.

It is understood his legal representative was already at the station.

"This government has no plans to privatise any jails - unlike the previous government, which privatised Parklea jail" ... Attorney-General Greg Smith.

Attorney-General Greg Smith … he has come under fire for an alleged claim he made. Photo: Helen Nezdropa

Mr Egan walked out of the police station and into a waiting ambulance after the charges were laid.

He has been the subject of a police investigation that began in 2010 following complaints he abused five children 30 years ago.

A number of women went to police following media reports about previous claims made within the Catholic Church.

He has now been charged with 16 counts of indecent assault and one count of rape, relating to alleged assaults while he was a priest in Sydney and the central coast, police said.

The charges related to the alleged assaults of an 11-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl at Carlingford in 1979 and 1987 and a 17-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy at The Entrance in 1972 and 1973.

Mr Egan was granted conditional bail and will appear in Ryde Local Court on May 23.

Police said the charges laid were consistent with the law at the time of the alleged offences. They were the equivalent of the modern offences indecent assault, aggravated indecent assault, sexual intercourse without consent and aggravated sexual assault.

Police said their investigations were continuing.

Two of Mr Egan’s alleged female victims were waiting at Ryde police station when he arrived.

He had to be helped out of the car by detectives before he made the short walk inside with the aid of a walking stick.

One of the women, Nikki Wells, said she did not think this day would ever arrive.

“It’s been 33 years in the making; it’s been the majority of my life that I’ve been waiting for this day,” she said.

“The last four years I’ve been advocating for his arrest. It was such a relief to see him walk into the station.”

In 2010, the Herald revealed that the church’s independent assessor had upheld claims of sexual molestation against Mr Egan after two sisters complained they were groped by him in the 1980s.

He was subsequently suspended from the church but was allowed to officiate at eight services while under investigation.

Mr Smith has also come under fire for his alleged links to the case, after a claim that he said one of Mr Egan’s alleged victims was “just trying to get $1 million from the church”.

Mr Smith has strongly denied these claims and said he “would never suggest any victim of sexual abuse was motivated by a desire to claim a financial payout”.


Catholic priest charged, taken to hospital

The Sydney Morning Herald

May 1, 2012 – 6:14PM

Vincent Morello


A retired Catholic priest and friend of the NSW attorney general was taken to hospital after being charged with a raft of child sexual offences dating back to the 1970s.

Finian Egan, 77, left a Sydney police station in an ambulance after being questioned and charged with 17 offences on Tuesday.

Attorney-General Greg Smith has been a long-time friend of Egan, who drove himself to Ryde police station on Tuesday morning (AEST), where detectives escorted him inside.

He was arrested and questioned over alleged sexual offences against four children, police said in a statement.

The offences allegedly occurred between 1972 and 1987 while Egan was serving as a priest to parishes in Sydney and on the Central Coast.

He was granted strict conditional bail before an ambulance arrived at the police station about 1.15pm and transported him to Ryde hospital where he was treated for heart problems.

Two of his alleged victims waited outside Ryde police station.

“I think I’m in shock,” Nikki Wells, 43, told AAP.

“It’s quite surreal because it’s been such a long process. Really, it’s been 30 years in the making.”

Kellie Roche, 41, said her family emigrated from Ireland to Australia in 1981 and bypassed their local parish to attend a parish with a priest with an Irish background.

“And he was welcomed into our family as if he was a family member because we’re all Irish,” Ms Roche told AAP.

“We needed somewhere in a new country where we could fit in and we felt like we fit in better in a parish where there’s an Irish priest.”

Both Ms Wells and Ms Roche brought complaints to the church and settled in 2010 for six and five-figure sums respectively, they said.

In NSW Parliament’s question time on Tuesday, Mr Smith was asked if he told a priest in a meeting last year that an alleged victim of sexual assault had only brought a case against Egan to get $1 million out of the church.

“I understand he was charged today,” Mr Smith said.

“The question relates to a possible complainant in those matters. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.”

Opposition Leader John Robertson said Mr Smith should be sacked if his alleged comments were true.

“Mr Smith should have distanced himself and his office from his good friend Finian Egan,” Mr Robertson said in a statement.

Ms Wells questioned why Egan was charged in March, eight months after police referred the matter to the DPP and one month after Ms Wells went public with her allegations.

A spokeswoman for the DPP declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation.

Egan will appear in Ryde Local Court on May 23.

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