A new Melbourne priest was abusing children from Day One, now he is being brought to justice

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 25 March 2019

Father Paul Pavlou is a relatively recent recruit to Australia's Catholic priesthood. He was originally a school-teacher but, in his thirties, he began studying to become a priest. Later, in his forties, he was elevated to the priesthood and began ministering in parishes of the Melbourne archdiocese. He has admitted in court that he was committing sexual offences against children before and after becoming a priest; and in recent years he has been convicted and sentenced regarding those victims. Now, in 2019, he is awaiting another sentencing regarding an additional victim. Pavlou's story raises questions about how the church selects its priests.

After studying for the priesthood, Paul Pavlou was ordained as a priest in 2004. His religious status (while studying for the priesthood — and afterwards) gave him access to children. Two victims have succeeded in getting Pavlou convicted in court for offences which he committed between 2003 and 2006:

  • Pavlou's first conviction (in court in 2009) was for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy (this abuse occurred in 2006). Originally, the abuse had been discovered by the boy's mother but, unfortunately, she merely reported the crime to the church authorities who then (as usual) managed to conceal the matter from the police. Eventually, however, the family spoke to Victoria Police child-protection detectives, and this resulted in Pavlou being convicted in court in 2009.
  • Later, another Pavlou victim spoke to the detectives, stating that he was abused around 2003-2004, when he was aged 12. With the help of the detectives, Pavlou was convicted again in September 2018 regarding this boy. The sentencing is being held in 2019. The 2018-2019 court case is mentioned towards the end of this article.

Some background

Research by Broken Rites has ascertained that Paul Pavlou was born in Australia in 1959, in a family of Greek Cypriot origin. The third of six children, he grew up in Melbourne suburbs (he attended primary school at East Burwood and high school at Richmond and Syndal).

He studied engineering at Melbourne's Monash University for a year before completing a Diploma of Teaching (Primary) at Melbourne’s Frankston State College in 1981, majoring in physical education and social science. He began teaching in state primary schools at Hallam and Mount Waverley (both in Melbourne’s east).

Other members of his family identify with the Greek Orthodox Church but Paul Pavlou became a Catholic and began taking an active role in Catholic affairs.

After spending ten years teaching, he began preparing for a career in religious life. In 1997, he graduated with a Bachelor of Theology at Melbourne’s Catholic Theological College and became a Brother in a Catholic religious order, the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Brother Pavlou lived in Salesian establishments in Melbourne’s east (at Oakleigh, Lysterfield and Ferntree Gully). At Ferntree Gully, Brother Pavlou taught at St Joseph's Regional College, which is conducted by the Salesian order.

In his forties, he was accepted by the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese as a mature-age entrant for the priesthood and did his training at the church's Melbourne seminary.

After being ordained during 2004, he worked as an assistant priest at Croydon (Sacred Heart parish) in Melbourne's outer east. Broken Rites has ascertained that Pavlou was listed as a priest, for the first time, in the next edition of the Australian Catholic Directory (compiled in early 2005).

In late 2005, Paul Pavlou took up duties at the Healesville parish (St Brigid's). He was listed there (as the administrator, or acting priest-in-charge) in the next edition of the Australian Catholic Directory (compiled in early 2006).

The 2009 court case

Father Paul Pavlou of the Melbourne Catholic archdiocese, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 29 June 2009 (when he was aged 50) to one charge of committing an indecent act with a 14-year-old boy and another charge of possessing child pornography.

The offences occurred while Pavlou was ministering at a parish at Healesville, north-east of Melbourne, for about a year in 2005-2006, the court was told. Healesville is within the Melbourne Catholic diocese.

For an indecent act with a child under 16, Father Pavlou was sentenced to 18 months in jail, which was suspended for 24 months.

For knowingly being in possession of child pornography, he was sentenced to a two-year Community-Based Order. As a condition of the CBO, Father Pavlou was ordered to do a program for sex offenders and 50 hours of community work.

The court ordered that Pavlou's name be placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 15 years.

An additional charge of indecent assault was withdrawn following discussions between the prosecutor and the church's defence lawyer.

The church's cover-up

The complaint regarding the 14-year-old boy first came to the surface in October 2006, when the boy’s mother became concerned about the 47-year-old priest's persistent interest in her son, including telephone calls and text messages and regular sleepovers at the priest's home.

The mother notified her concern to the principal of St Brigid's primary school. The mother was then directed to the Melbourne archdiocese’s internal investigation system. This system was supervised by a Melbourne barrister, Peter O’Callaghan, QC, who is engaged by the archdiocese.

As part of the church’s internal process, the church sent two female representatives of the archdiocese to conduct a series of tape-recorded interviews with the boy. Under the church process, Father Pavlou was notified about the boy’s allegations, thus enabling him to prepare his defence.

During the church's internal investigation, Pavlou left the Healesville parish after being there for only 12 months. The reason for his departure, according to the next edition of the Australian Catholic directory (compiled in early 2007) was "sick leave", and his forwarding address was given as "care of the archdiocesan office".

Police investigation

Meanwhile, the mother became dissatisfied by the church process and she decided to consult the police. Unlike the church process, the police acted decisively.

In 2007 the police interviewed Pavlou and checked his computer. Because he had been forewarned by the church process, Pavlou had deleted files from his computer. However, police were still able to retrieve evidence that Pavlou had been using the computer for child pornography.

Police from the Lilydale criminal investigation unit eventually issued Pavlou with a court summons. The case was listed for a mention in court in 2008, and again in early 2009.

Originally, the defence indicated that Pavlou would contest the charges. Normally, this would entail a long hearing, perhaps over several days, with witnesses being examined and cross-examined.

When the "contested hearing" date (29 June 2009) arrived, the defence indicated that Pavlou had decided to plead guilty. This meant a relatively short hearing.

The prosecution agreed to amalgamate the two counts of indecent acts into one charge.

Pornography on computer

The 2009 hearing was told that, during their investigations, police seized a computer hard-drive. Police retrieved a large number of photographs depicting children under 16 in pornographic situations, the court was told.

"The vast majority of the images depicted young adolescent males," the police prosecutor said.

Originally, in the police investigation, Pavlou claimed ignorance about the pornography but police found evidence that he paid for the porn himself. This persuaded Pavlou to change his plea to guilty.

Sentenced in 2009

After Pavlou's guilty plea in 2009, the hearing was largely devoted to submissions by the defence, seeking a lenient sentence.

Church defence lawyer Brian Bourke told the court that, at the age of 50 (in 2009), Pavlou now had little prospect of employment in any field for which he was trained.

As requested by the defence, the magistrate took into account the guilty plea when deciding the sentence.

In sentencing, Magistrate Anne Goldsborough told Pavlou: "These are charges of the utmost significance not only for you but for the young victim involved."

The victim and his family were present in the court for the magistrate's summing up and sentence.

The prosecuting agency in Pavlou's 2009 case was the Lilydale branch of the Victoria Police's criminal investigation unit. The police contact at Lilydale was Leading Senior Constable Mark Molloy.

Awaiting another sentencing in 2019

On 10 September 2018, Paul Pavlou appeared in the Melbourne County Court, charged with offences committed against another child (a 12-year-old boy) in 2003-2004. The charges in this case include sexual penetration (this is classified as a serious offence). Previously, when this boy's case was first filed in court, Pavlou had indicated that he intended to fight these charges with a "not guilty" plea but in the County Court he changed his plea to guilty. A plea hearing was held on 25 March 2019, with the sentencing to be held later in 2019.

Meanwhile, Victoria Police detectives are available to receive any further information about Paul Pavlou's previous activities.

Further reading

Father Paul Pavlou wasn't the first priest from St Brigid's parish in Healesville who ended up in jail. A previous priest there, Fr David Daniel, was offending while at this parish in the early 1990s. To see a Broken Rites article about Fr David Daniel, click HERE.

Eight months before Paul Pavlou's 2009 conviction, another Melbourne Catholic priest (Father Fr John Haines) was jailed for similar offences. Haines was sentenced on 4 November 2008, after pleading guilty to six counts of an indecent act with a child under 16, procurement of a minor for child pornography and possessing child porn.

For another example of a priest who was involved in child-pornography, see the Broken Rites article about Father Adrian van Klooster.

A feature article about Paul Pavlou in the Melbourne Age, on 10 August 2009, can be seen here.