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Early release for none-too-bright priest who lied to ICAC

AN ORTHODOX priest who admitted lying to the Independent Commission Against Corruption was released from jail yesterday after new evidence on his ''limited intellectual ability'' was accepted by the Court of Criminal of Appeal.

Father Elias Khoury, from St Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, in Punchbowl, was sentenced to 2½-years in jail in March last year after he pleaded guilty to falsifying community service orders for two offenders and lying about it to investigators from ICAC.

He told ICAC he was moved by compassion, did not understand the ''seriousness'' of signing false timesheets, and was trying to ''cover'' for the two men, who had been assigned to his church.

Justice Carolyn Simpson, Justice David Davies and acting Justice Michael Grove quashed that original sentence yesterday, and ruled the remainder of Father Khoury's sentence would expire on March 25 next year. His recalculated non-parole period expired on Wednesday, meaning he could be released immediately.

The judgment accepted fresh medical evidence from four experts who found it likely that Father Khoury's ''actual abilities had always been well below the level expected of a parish priest'', he was ''incapable of performing complex administrative work, and had a reduced understanding of the effect of his conduct''.

''In my opinion, the applicant's low-level intellectual functioning would have been an extremely relevant circumstance had it been made known to the sentencing judge,'' Justice Simpson said.

The judgment also upheld the delay in sentencing and the structure of the sentence as grounds for appeal, and noted that he refused to participate in psychiatric or psychological assessment before sentencing.

Outside the court, Father Khoury's lawyer, Elias Tabchouri, said: ''He should have been released, in my view, a long time ago but today's a fantastic day for the family.''