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    A retired Catholic priest has been found guilty of indecent assault on a child over 40 years ago.

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      sexual intercourse with a child

      Catholic Priest Found Guilty of Indecent Assault on Child

      A retired Catholic priest has been found guilty of indecent assault on a child over 40 years ago.

      Richard Doyle, who is now 85-years-old, has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced on 9 May.

      The complainant was aged between 6 years old and 10 years old when the offences occurred.

      Indecent Assault Charges

      Richard Doyle was found guilty of four indecent assault charges which were said to have occurred between 1979 and 1982.

      The court heard that the girl’s mother was a devout Catholic with a strong involvement in the church. She first met Doyle in Bruce Rock where he was a parish priest.

      When the family moved to Perth in 1978, Doyle visited their home uninvited.

      Doyle would visit frequently between 1979 and 1982, and would often stay for dinner.

      “If you knew my history of growing up, my parents, my grandparents would never turn away a priest,” the mother said.

      The prosecutor suggested that Doyle would ask for “back scratches” from the girl when he would see her.

      In her evidence, the mother said she remembered seeing Doyle take off his shirt in her daughter’s room to have his back scratched, but never expected anything “untoward”.

      The prosecution case was that the interactions between the priest and the girl would progressively escalate, until Doyle ultimately engaged in sexual touching.

      It was alleged the sexual abuse occurred “very frequently”, with the priest charged with six counts of indecent dealing of a child.

      However, Mr Doyle denied that he received back scratches at the family home.

      The defence case was that Doyle’s contact with the girl and her family was to provide support, as they were struggling at the time.

      Guilty to Historical Sexual Offences

      However, Judge Belinda Lonsdale found Doyle guilty of four counts. In her reasons, she said the former priest had “an indecent interest in prepubescent children”.

      Following the judgement, Her Honour suggested that a sentence of full-time imprisonment was “almost inevitable”.

      “I’m sure you’ll appreciate that you are to receive a term of imprisonment to be immediately served,” she said.

      Doyle will remain in custody and will be sentenced on 9 May 2022. He will have the option of filing an appeal after he is sentenced.

      Sentencing for Historical Sexual Assault Offences

      Section 25AA of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 was introduced following a royal commission into historical institutional child sexual abuse.

      It sets out that any historical child sex offence requires the offender to be sentenced according to current laws rather than the law that was in place at the time of the offence.

      Prior to the enactment of this section, perpetrators were sentenced based on the laws at the time of the incident, which could be less onerous.

      The Court is also required to take into account the trauma sexual abuse has on children.

      The penalties for child sexual assault offences are very serious. An offence of ‘sexual intercourse with child between 14-16 years’ carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.

      An offence of ‘aggravated sexual intercourse with child between 14-16 years’ carries a maximum penalty is 12 years imprisonment. There is also a standard non-parole period (‘SNPP’) is 5 years imprisonment.

      The SNPP is the amount of time a person is required to spend in jail before they can be released.

      That is why it is important to obtain advice from a specialist sexual assault lawyer who has successfully defended hundreds of these charges. Call Astor Legal on (02) 7804 2823. Or, you can email

      Looking at sentencing statistics for child sexual assault offences over the last 5 years, it is unsurprising to see that over 80% of persons found guilty of sexual intercourse with a child were sentenced to full-time imprisonment. 

      Plainly, jail is very likely for this offence. Recent sentencing amendments have done away with suspended sentences, which further increased the likelihood of a term of imprisonment being imposed if you are found guilty or plead guilty. The stigma that comes with these charges is likely to follow a person for the rest of their life.

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