Tasmanian ex-priest freed after convictions quashed

Former priest, Roger Michael Bellemore, was freed by a Tasmanian appeal court yesterday which ordered a retrial after quashing his convictions on child sex charges because of "errors and irregularities" at the trial.

Bellemore, 71, was convicted in February and sentenced to five years prison on four charges of maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person, the Mercury reports.

Mr Bellemore was accused of molesting four male students, aged between 12 and 15, who were boarding at Marist College more than 30 years ago.

The former teacher left the court and headed straight for the airport to fly to NSW, where he was living before he was jailed.

Yesterday Justice Alan Blow and a full bench of the Tasmanian Supreme Court allowed an appeal, quashed the convictions and ordered a new trial.

Justice Blow said a jury might well have acquitted Mr Bellemore on one or more of the four charges, "but for the errors and irregularities".

"I am not persuaded that the evidence properly admitted at trial proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that the appellant was guilty of all four charges," he said.

"Further, a significant denial of procedural fairness resulted from the defence counsel not being permitted to cross examine, in relation to counselling, about matters other than communication."

Justice Pierre Slicer said a decision of trial Justice Shan Tennent had "impacted adversely" on Mr Bellemore's entitlement to a fair trial.

Mr Bellemore was bailed to re-appear in the Supreme Court in Hobart on 13 March 2007.

Errors set priest free (The Mercury, 22/12/06)
Priest's sex conviction quashed (The Mercury, 21/12/06)
Ex-priest gets child sex conviction quashed (ABC News, 21/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Supreme Court of Tasmania

Marist apology to victims in abuse case (CathNews, 28/3/06)
Church rules out investigating paedophile activity (CathNews, 1/3/06)
Marist Burnie ex-pupil tells of sex abuse (CathNews, 21/2/06)

22 Dec 2006