PETER Jurd has welcomed the arrest of a defrocked Armidale priest.
Mr Jurd’s brother Damian, a former altar boy, was an alleged victim of child-sex abuse during the 1980s. Damian’s life spiralled out of control and he committed suicide at 28.
Mr Jurd yesterday told The Express he and his family were surprised an arrest had happened so soon after a police taskforce was set up to investigate the allegations.
Strike Force Glenroe was established to investigate child sex abuse allegations aired on the ABC’s Four Corners in July. Mr Jurd was interviewed extensively for the program about the experience of his brother Damian.
“Although the charges aren’t in direct relation to my brother, I know my family and I are very happy that the process of bringing him to justice has started,” he said.
Mr Jurd, a UNE student, drove to Armidale yesterday to see the former priest appear in court to answer 25 charges.
“I really want to be in court and see him finally facing the start of being brought to justice,” he said. “I don’t think he thought this day was ever going to come.”
Bishop of Armidale Michael Kennedy issued a statement yesterday morning offering the diocese’s full co-operation and assistance with the police investigation.
“I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathy to victims of child abuse and their families,” he said.
“I am not able to comment further as this is a matter rightly being dealt with by the NSW Police.”
Another informant for Four Corners, who asked not to be named, called for further investigation into an alleged cover-up within the church. “Any systemic cover-up needs to be exposed and measures put in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” she said.
The Catholic Church’s handling of child sex abuse allegations has come under scrutiny across the state since the Four Corners program aired.
In August The Newcastle Herald set up a petition calling for a Royal Commission into the church.
Mr Jurd said the courage of victims who came forward should be recognised.
“It must be so hard for them to come forward and face this,” he said.
Mr Jurd warned people to watch what they said about the case on social media to avoid prejudicing the trial.
His warnings follow concern over the content of Facebook pages set up in the wake of the rape and murder of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher last month.
“It’s just a matter of using a bit of commonsense,” he said. “If you think it’s going to affect the outcome of the trial, just keep it off social media.”
Mr Jurd has lent his support to the re-establishment of a government-funded child sexual abuse counselling service for the Armidale region.
A proposal is currently before Community Services Minister Pru Goward to bring back the service which was closed last year when its funding was discontinued.