Sunday 21 April 2024

More abuse charges against retired Australian bishop

Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders - one of Australia's most senior  Catholic figures - is arrested at his home over alleged historical sex  offences | Daily Mail Online

The former Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders is facing two new indecent assault charges after his home in Western Australia's north was raided on Wednesday morning.

The 74-year-old is already facing 26 charges, including two counts of sexual penetration without consent, three counts of indecent dealing with a child and 14 counts of unlawful and indecent assault.

WA Police confirmed on Wednesday a 74-year-old Broome man is facing two charges of indecent and unlawful assault.

While police have not named the man, the ABC has confirmed he is the former Broome Bishop.

It will be alleged Bishop Saunders sexually assaulted a man who was 21 or 22 years old in 2016.

The new charges mean two complainants have come forward to police. 

The former Bishop is set to reappear in Broome Magistrate's Court on June 17.

Not guilty pleas likely

Last month in the Broome Magistrate's Court his lawyer Seamus Rafferty indicated the former Catholic church figurehead would plead not guilty to all charges.

A suppression order restricting publication and media coverage of proceedings was also requested, but Magistrate Deen Potter later ruled it was not required.

"The interests of justice do not require a suppression order," he told the court on March 1, after the culmination of a temporary suppression order.

"Going forward, in my view, there are sufficient safeguards in place [that will] ensure the interests of open justice and a fair trial."

The ABC reported in March that the first swathe of charges related to one complainant, who was aged 16 or 17 at the time of the first alleged offending in 2008.

Police allege the offending took place at several locations throughout the Kimberley over a five-year period, the court heard.

Bishop Saunders has also been charged with holding a firearm without a licence and inadequate storage of a firearm.

Magistrate Potter confirmed in February the firearms included a shotgun and rounds of ammunition numbering in the hundreds.

Bishop Saunders was granted bail on a $10,000 surety, with his next court appearance scheduled for June 17.

Sizeable footprint in the Kimberley

Both supporters and critics of the former Bishop attended court, with tense scenes as the 74-year-old was granted bail.

Bishop Saunders was first ordained as a priest in Broome in 1976 before being named as Bishop in 1996.

During his time in the Kimberley, he has held positions across the region, including undertaking stints in the remote communities of Kalumburu in the far north and Lombadina on the Dampier Peninsula.

Bishop Saunders has always denied any wrongdoing and maintained his innocence.