Priest aided crime: police

CHARGED: Father Lewis Fenton, 81, of Eleebana, leaves Newcastle Local Court yesterday. He is charged with being an accessory before the fact of an assault.THE second Australian Catholic priest charged with concealing child sex crimes “procured and aided” a Newcastle media executive to indecently assault a young male in the 1980s, police allege.

Father Lewis Fenton, 81, of Eleebana, is alleged to have been an accessory before the fact in the indecent assault of a young male at Nelson Bay between 1982 and 1984 by Francis Andrew Tully.

Tully was employed by the Post group of newspapers, owned by the Newcastle Herald. He worked as a salesman from the Bolton Street building in Newcastle.

Tully, 55 at the time of the offences, was jailed for two years in 1986 after pleading guilty to three child sex charges. He died in the 1990s.

Father Fenton appeared in Newcastle Local Court for the first time yesterday charged with being an accessory before the fact of an indecent assault, and misprision of a felony – failing to disclose a serious crime – after Tully sexually assaulted the young male.

Police allege Father Fenton unlawfully concealed the commission of a serious crime by Tully against the young male at Woodberry between 1982 and 1984, “well knowing that a felony had been committed by Tully”. Father Fenton did not enter pleas.

He was charged earlier this month and is the second Australian Catholic priest to be charged with concealing the child sex crimes of another person. Hunter priest Tom Brennan made international news as the first Australian Catholic priest charged with concealing another priest’s child sex crimes in the 1970s.

Father Brennan died of cancer six weeks later – before the charges were determined in court.

Father Fenton was listed at Cardiff parish in 1979, was parish priest at Nelson Bay in 1988, parish priest at Gateshead in 1994, and retired to live at a Catholic aged care facility at Eleebana in 1997.

The charge of misprision of a felony was replaced in the NSW Crimes Act in 1990 by a package of concealing serious crimes offences under section 316.

Father Fenton was charged with the older offence because the allegations relate to the 1980s. He was granted bail in early January on condition he not contact two named people, including the alleged victim, or any witnesses.

The matter was adjourned to March.

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