An elderly former Salvation Army officer has been found guilty of multiple sex offences against children spanning decades when he worked in Sydney and regional NSW.
Raymond Maurice Pethybridge faced a special hearing in the NSW District Court after a judge found in May 2021 that he was unfit to be tried in accordance with normal procedures.
The 90-year-old was taken to have pleaded not guilty to 13 indecent and sexual assault charges involving five girls whose families were closely involved in The Salvation Army.
Judge Alister Abadee on Thursday returned special verdicts of guilty "on the limited evidence available" of 11 of the charges.
Pethybridge previously faced two jury trials in 2018.
He was found guilty of multiple sexual offences against a number of complainants from the late 1950s through to the late 1980s.
The second trial was a re-trial after he successfully appealed his convictions.
He then won a second appeal but was ultimately found to be unfit to face another trial.
Pethybridge was employed by The Salvation Army from March 1956 to October 1983, and from January 1985 to May 1997.
His roles included lieutenant, captain and major at many locations including West Wallsend and Orange.
Judge Abadee found the evidence of the complainants to be credible and reliable while the transcript of Pethybridge's evidence - given at his 2018 trial - revealed a fundamental problem in "its adamant nature".
"So often, his evidence that events 'never' happened was controverted by actual evidence to the contrary and the inherent probabilities," he said.
'"To have a distinct recollection that a five-year old girl of a family friend did not sit on his lap in 1970, that bible study sessions never occurred on a Friday night in Campsie in 1972 or 1973, or that there was never occasion for him to enter into a granny flat at a home in Orange in the mid-1980s was implausible and needlessly categorical."
He also did not have confidence in Pethybridge's wife as a witness, finding "she was there to doggedly defend her husband".
The judge made "full allowance for the difficult predicament she was in, in having the man she had been married to for decades being accused of serious crimes.
"For someone like Mrs Pethybridge, a devoted servant of The Salvation Army with a strong religious bent, I formed the impression that if the charges against her husband were made good, she would feel a great sense of shame (if she hasn't already)."
Australian Associated Press
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