ACT News

Catholic priest told alleged abuse victim to 'move on'

Father Edward Evans, who is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl in Canberra.
Father Edward Evans, who is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl in Canberra. 

A former Catholic priest told his alleged abuse victim to "move on" and stop living in the past when she asked for an apology during a covertly recorded phone call almost 20 years later, a court has heard. 

Father Edward Evans, now 85, went on trial in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday over allegations he abused a young girl at his home on five occasions and at Cooleman Court on another. 

The girl and her family attended his German-language church in Braddon, and were close with Father Evans, who was often referred to as "Father Eddie".

The Crown, represented by Sara Gul, alleges the priest put his hands down the girl's pants and grabbed her bottom three times, and digitally penetrated her twice in his kitchen. 

It is also alleged he grabbed her breast while they sat alone in a car outside of Cooleman Court, before pulling her on top of him into a straddling position. 

The girl was aged between 10 and 13, and Father Evans was in his 60s. 

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Ms Gul told the jury the assaults were quick and furtive, but also relatively public. Father Evans, she said, would quickly touch the complainant while others were in the home and then act like nothing had happened.

She said the girl was afraid of coming forward about a man so close to her family. 

"[The family] shared a special bond and they held him in the closest and highest regard," Ms Gul said.

"And the Crown says he sexually abused their daughter on and off for three years."

The court heard that decades later, after coming forward to police, the complainant called Father Evans. 

Police were covertly listening in, and she asked for an apology for the alleged abuse. 

The woman, according to Ms Gul, said:

"You used to touch me as a child Father Evans."

The court heard that Father Evans responded: 

"You were after me."

Ms Gul said Father Evans also told the complainant to "please move on" and stop living in the past. 

Father Evans is fighting the charges and his barrister Steven Whybrow told the court that those comments were taken out of context.

"Listen to the whole tape and make up your own mind," he told jurors.

Mr Whybrow said no one other than the complainant backs up the allegations, and told the jury to use their common sense to decide whether the acts, committed in a home while others were present, could possibly have occurred. 

"Everything with a grain of salt at this stage," he said.

He reminded the jury that the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse should not colour their thinking in this case. 

Mr Whybrow also said a police interview with Father Evans should also not be taken out of context. 

In that interview, the priest admits to touching the girl. He also said he didn't know touching the bottom was a crime in Australia.

The complainant's family, Mr Whybrow said, would say they never saw the conduct and that the girl was freely affectionate toward Father Evans.

He said his client was presumed innocent and did not need to explain why the allegations had been made. 

The complainant began giving evidence in the ACT Supreme Court on Wednesday. 

She said she was shocked the first time Father Evans put his hands down her pants as they sat at the table.

"I was scared, I was afraid, I was unsure," she said.

"I always felt that my parents had put him on such a pedestal that it was a safe area, I never thought he was a threat."

She said she never reacted to the abuse while it occurred, because she was ashamed and didn't want anyone to find out. 

"This man who was so holy to my family, I put my belief in maybe it was an accident," she said.

"I didn't know, I didn't know what to believe."

The trial continues before Justice Richard Refshauge on Thursday.