Christian Brother Francis Lambert Wise in a court case in South Australia

 A South Australian court has ruled that an elderly former Christian Brother, Francis Lambert Wise, was medically unfit to stand trial on charges of child-sexual abuse. However, Judge Dean Clayton held hearings in early 2009 to receive the complaints and to consider the evidence of the alleged victims. Such hearings are held in South Australia, in essence, to give alleged child sex abuse victims their say in court.

Instead of having a jury, the judge's role in these South Australian hearings was to decide whether the objective facts of the alleged abuse could be proven beyond reasonable doubt. If the judge found the allegations proved to this high standard, Wise would be liable to a period of supervision — but not prison, because of his health problems, which were increased by his advanced age.

The charges in 2009 related to incidents that allegedly occurred more than 40 years earlier, in 1964 and 1965. The elapse of time created difficulties for the prosecution. Furthermore, Wise denied the allegations when interviewed by police forty years after the alleged abuse.

The charges

Francis Lambert Wise (born 21 December 1920) worked as a Christian Brother in South Australia and (previously) Western Australia. In the 1960s, when the alleged incidents occurred, Brother Wise was a teacher and sports coach at Christian Brothers College in central Adelaide.

In court, Wise was accused of two counts of buggery and five of indecent assault against two students in South Australia.

Wise was not in court to hear the allegations because of his health problems.

It was alleged in court that Brother Wise raped the 11-year-old boy at the school and at the boy's home weeks after the child's father died unexpectedly.

The court heard that Wise also indecently assaulted a nine-year-old boy in a cinema during a social outing with the school cricket team.

Prosecutor Brian Nitschke outlined the alleged abuse inflicted by Wise, who was described by one of his alleged victims as being "unpredictable" and a strict enforcer of discipline.

The court heard that Wise had falsely accused one of the boys of stealing money from cricket change-rooms and had taken him into a room at the school.

He allegedly made the boy take off his pants, then hit him repeatedly with a strap before anally raping him.

The court heard that Wise again had intercourse with the boy at his home, after the boy's father had died of a heart attack.

Wise allegedly told his crying victim: "That's what happens ... this is between us and no-one else is to know."

Mr Nitschke said the second victim was abused by Wise as they sat watching a film in an Adelaide cinema.

After putting his hand on the boy's genitals then making the boy reciprocate, Wise allegedly spoke of the devil and told him to remain silent.

Judge's finding

On 4 August 2009, Judge Clayton said the prosecution needed to prove each element of offending beyond reasonable doubt. However, the judge ruled that the prosecution had not succeeded in reaching this high level of proof.

Therefore the case against Wise lapsed.

However, the two former students were pleased to have succeeded in getting their complaints aired in court and therefore in the media.

Western Australia

Broken Rites has researched the career of Brother Francis Lambert Wise.

Wise belonged to the "Holy Spirit" Province of the Christian Brothers, which had its headquarters in Perth, Western Australia. This province covered the two states of South Australia and Western Australia. (The Christian Brothers also had a second province covering New South Wales,a third province covering Victoria and Tasmania and a fourth province covering Queensland.) The Christian Brothers in Western Australia were sometimes transferred to South Australia and vice versa.

In Western Australia, the Christian Brothers conducted orphanages at Clontarf, Castledare and Bindoon, which catered especially for homeless boys who were shipped to Australia from Britain.

In the early 1950s, Brother Francis Lambert Wise worked in these West Australian orphanages.

Brother Wise is mentioned in a book by Bruce Blyth,In the Shadow of the Cross (published by P and B Press in Western Australia in 1997), which deals with these West Australian orphanages.

On pages 100-101, Bruce Blyth refers to a hearing in the NSW Supreme Court in December 1994. Peter Semmler QC was questioning Brother Patrick O'Doherty, one-time principal of Christian Brothers orphanages at Castledare and Clontarf, W.A. Semmler read out an extract from a letter from Brother P.L. Duffy, an assistant to the Christian Brothers' Superior General in Ireland. This letter was written in January 1954 and was addressed to Brother Carroll, a member of the Christian Brothers local council in Melbourne. Duffy wrote [as quoted in court]:
" ... I think you would be well advised to let Brother L. O'Doherty know during the next visitation of the desirability of keeping Brother Lambert Wise away from all supervision of the boys except, perhaps, when they are in the field. His relations with boys have given rise for concern before and for everybody's sake the greatest care should be taken to protect both him and the boys."

South Australia

In the late 1950s, Brother Francis Lambert Wise was transferred from Western Australia to South Australia, where he worked at Rostrevor College (Adelaide) from about 1957 to 1963. Broken Rites has inspected the college yearbooks, which listed him as "Reverend Brother F.L. Wise". The Rostrevor staff list in those years contained about eleven Christian Brothers plus about six lay teachers.

At Rostrevor, Wise's duties included being a dormitory master.

In the mid-1960s, Wise worked at Christian Brothers College in central Adelaide.

In the late 1960s, he worked at St Paul's College in Gilles Plains (Adelaide). A man who was a student at St Paul's in the 1960s, has shown Broken Rites the St Paul's Annual Reports, which contain references to Br F. L. Wise. For example:

  • In the 1967 report Wise was welcomed to the school, after transferring from CBC Adelaide. There was a class photo of him, with Grade Six boys. He was listed as coach of the under-13 football team, and assistant coach of the under 11-team.
  • In the 1968 Report, there was a photo of him conducting a class singing performance at the annual speech night. The caption said "Br Wise and Gypsy Gay". There were photos of him with the under-13 football team and under-15 cricket team.

In the early 1970s, Wise returned to Rostrevor College. Broken Rites has examined a document indicating that Brother F.L. Wise was the class teacher of Grade 6 at Rostrevor in 1974.

It is believed that Wise later left the Christian Brothers and taught (as Mister Wise) in a state school for the South Australian Education Department.