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Broken Rites Australia helps victims of church-related
During Irwin's court hearings in 2009-2011, it emerged that:
Irwin was a member of the Catholic order of Vincentian priests and brothers (this order is also known as the Congregation of the Mission).
The offences occurred when Irwin and the Melbourne boy stayed overnight at St Stanislaus College (a boys' boarding school, owned by the Vincentian order) in Bathurst, west of Sydney, in New South Wales, during school holidays in 1986. Irwin was a former pupil, and former teacher, at this school.
This New South Wales court case was confined to Irwin's abuse of the teenage victim in New South Wales. Anybody else who wishes to provide relevant information about the activities of William Irwin, in any other part of Australia, would need to talk to police in the state in which the activity occurred.
Irwin becomes a priestBroken Rites research has found some information about William Irwin in the 1990s, after his 1986 abuse of the Melbourne boy was reported to the Vincentians.
The 1992 yearbook of St Stanislaus College, Bathurst, contains photographs of Father Bill Irwin, CM (the letters "CM" stand for Congregation of the Mission):
Background of the caseAccording to statements made in court, William Irwin was a former pupil of St Stanislaus College, Bathurst. Here he was introduced to the culture of the Vincentian Fathers and Brothers. The Vincentians recruited him as a member and he joined the order in 1975 in his late teens, becoming "Brother" Irwin. He was based at St Stanislaus College between 1980 and 1983 and between 1987 and 1989.
The prosecution said that in between these two stints, Irwin worked in the mid-1980s in a Melbourne parish and was a "spiritual leader" in the Catholic youth group, Antioch. His role included providing "counselling" to youths aged between 15 and 18.
A Melbourne family consulted Irwin for assistance with counselling for their son, the prosecution said. The boy's parents, who trusted Brother Irwin, told Irwin that their son had been sexually abused at the age of 15 by another man, who later pleaded guilty and was jailed. The boy began visiting Irwin for counselling sessions, often in priests' quarters.
The prosecution said that, in the second half of 1986 when the youth was 17, Irwin allegedly took him on a trip from Melbourne to Sydney, where they stayed in a seminary. They then allegedly stayed overnight at St Stanislaus College, Bathurst. No pupils were there as it was in the school holidays.
At St Stanislaus College, Irwin told the boy to lie on a bed with him and Irwin then behaved indecently, the prosecution said.
In the weeks or months after the assault, the teenager reported the abuse to a nun. When his parents heard about the assault, they complained to the Vincentian order (instead of reporting the crime to the police). The Vincentian Order's Australian head (known as "the Provincial") allegedly promised to the parents that Irwin would be removed from all positions involving contact with children or young people. But that did not happen, the prosecution said, and in fact Irwin went on to be a dormitory master at St Stanislaus for two years, during which time he also taught "personal development" and "religion".
The prosecution said that police had located the Vincentian order's file on the matter, which was headed "strictly confidential". In it, the Vincentians' Australian head allegedly recorded that Irwin had admitted the "bed incident". [However, for legal reasons, the jury was absent when the court was told about this file; and, again for legal reasons, the jury was also absent when the court was told about the Vincentians' promise to keep Irwin away from children.]
Court proceedingsAfter police arrested William Irwin in November 2009, he appeared before a magistrate in Sydney's Downing Centre Local court on 1 December 2009 and again on 11 February 2010. These were brief, procedural hearings to file the charges. The investigation had been made by detectives from Bathurst, where St Stanislaus College is located.
In March 2011, William Stanley Irwin appeared in the Sydney District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to the two charges of gross indecency. This necessitated a jury trial.
The victim (aged 41 at the time of Irwin's trial) told the jury that, after being sexually abused by another man at the age of 15 (while on work experience), he felt "depressed and very confused, with very low self-esteem". He later began receiving counselling from Brother Bill Irwin, who "seemed to understand where I was coming from".
The victim said that when he tried to explain his feelings, Irwin would often put his arms around his shoulder and gave him a hug at the end of a session.
The victim described the trip to New South Wales. He said that when he and Irwin stayed overnight at St Stanislaus College, he was asked to Irwin's room and then was told to lie down on Irwin's bed. He said Irwin kissed him, fondled him sexually and then got him to masturbate Irwin and vice-versa.
"Brother Bill said we should keep this to ourselves," he said.
The victim said that after returning to his room, he remembered "tossing and turning that night thinking about what had happened and feeling very confused. I remember I was upset".
The victim's mother gave evidence in court. She told the jury how upset her son was when he later disclosed being sexually assaulted by Br. William Irwin.
"He felt he was let down because Br. Bill was the one who was supposed to be helping him," she said.
Guilty verdictAfter the jury (comprising eight women and four men) returned a verdict of guilty, Judge Ronald Solomon heard pre-sentence submissions from the prosecution and the defence lawyers.
Sentencing Irwin on 23 September 2011, Judge Solomon described the Irwin's crimes as a "serious beach of trust".
Judge Solomon imposed two six-month jail terms to be served concurrently but suspended them, placing Irwin on a good behaviour bond for that period.
At last, the church's cover-up had been public exposed.
on 23 September 2011.)