This priest has been in jail, and he now faces more charges in 2019

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 31 January 2019

On 24 July 2014 a Catholic priest, Father Patrick Holmes (then aged 79), was jailed for sexually abusing two young girls in Western Australia many years ago (one girl in 1969 and the other girl about 1981). The first victim eventually reported Father Holmes to the church authorities in 2000, but (according to Broken Rites research) the church continued to list "Reverend Patrick Holmes" as a priest in the annual editions of the Australian Catholic Directory. In 2014 this victim finally spoke to police, who immediately charged Holmes. In 2018, police charged Patrick Holmes (now aged 83) in court again in Perth, regarding additional child-sex offences from 40 years ago. These new charges will be heard in court in 2019.

Some background

Broken Rites research has ascertained that Father Patrick Holmes is a member of a Catholic religious order called the Camillian Fathers (or Ministers to the Sick). This order specialises in providing chaplains for hospitals as well as working in parishes. Father Patrick Holmes has worked in parishes of the Perth Archdiocese.

The Camillian Fathers have their world headquarters in Rome. The Australian leader of the order is in Sydney. When Broken Rites checked in 2014, the Camillian order had 15 priests in Australia, nine of whom were each listed as a chaplain at hospitals in New South Wales.

The 2014 court case

In the 2014 case, Holmes was sentenced in the District Court of Western Australia after pleading guilty to six child-sex charges.

The court was told that the first three offences were committed in 1969 (when Holmes was aged 34) and involved a girl aged about six or seven. Holmes was then the parish priest at Holy Name parish in Carlisle (a suburb of Perth) and the offences were committed against this girl in the presbytery.

The court was told that this girl was a pupil at the primary school next to his church. She would regularly visit Father Holmes after school and was given treats and cash in return for her co-operation and silence.

The court was told that Father Holmes placed his hand down this girl's pants and also rubbed his crotch against hers.

The second girl was abused about 1981 (when Holmes was aged about 46), in the presbytery of the Saint Aloysius parish in Shenton Park (another Perth suburb) where Holmes was again the parish priest. The girl was aged 10 or 11.

Holmes touched this girl's breasts, vagina and buttocks, the court was told. She was given treats.

Later, during the 1990s until 2000 (according to the annual editions of the Australian Catholic Directory), Father Holmes was the parish priest of St Joseph's parish, Subiaco (a Perth suburb).

In 2000 (when Holmes was aged 65), the first victim notified the Catholic Church authorities about Holmes's offences, and Holmes wrote her a letter of apology. Holmes took retirement from parish work but the church authorities continued to list him as a priest ("Reverend Patrick Holmes, retired") in the annual editions of the Australian Catholic Directory.

The 1969 victim reported the matter to police in January 2014 - fourteen years after telling the church about it. The police, unlike the church, made sure that Holmes was charged. He appeared in a Perth magistrates court on 15 April 2014 for preliminary proceedings, at which he pleaded guilty. The sentencing was then scheduled for mid-2014.

[A media report of the April 2014 court hearing stated: "Holmes was most recently working as a hospital chaplain.]

At the pre-sentencing proceedings, Holmes' lawyer told the court that Holmes started studying to be a priest when he was in his teens, and was ordained when he was 21.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Henry John Wisbey said that Holmes had abused his position of trust, authority and pastoral regard, and exploited the naivety and young age of his victims "to achieve your criminal purposes".

The abuse had had an extremely significant and long-lasting adverse psychological impact on his victims, Judge Wisbey said.

He told Holmes: "You have brought considerable shame on yourself, that is a consequence of your offending behaviour."

The judge said that the only mitigating factor in sentencing was that Holmes had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had co-operated with police.

Judge Wisbey said an immediate term of imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence. He took into account Holmes' old age and low risk of reoffending.

He sentenced Holmes to three years jail. Holmes would be eligible for parole after serving 18 months behind bars.

In court again: 2018 and 2019

During 2018, Father Patrick Holmes (aged 83) made several appearances in a Perth magistrates court, where police filed an increasing number of child-sex offences from 40 years ago, relating to his time in West Australian parishes. These new charges relate to multiple alleged victims, including boys and girls.

One court appearance, in April 2018, was regarding a number of victims who were aged between six and twelve at the time of the offences

In another court appearance in August 2018, police filed more charges regarding more victims. Three of these charges relate to a girl who was aged six in 1970.

In court in October 2018, police filed an additional charge of unlawfully and indecently assaulting a male. The alleged victim was a seven-year-old boy in 1967 while Holmes was a priest in Carlisle.

On 6 November 2018, at a preliminary hearing with a magistrate, Holmes entered a plea of Not Guilty on 16 charges. He was ordered to face a trial with a judge in the W.A. District Court in 2019.

The charges against Fr Patrick Holmes are a result of investigations by the Child Abuse Squad of the West Australian police. Police say the investigation is extensive and ongoing. Police urge anyone with information about the case to come forward and make a report.