ACT priest pleads guilty to sex crime

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A priest of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn has pled guilty to sending indecent materials to a young girl at a hearing before an Australian Capital Territory (ACT) court this week. Brian Champness was arrested in January after an investigation by ACT and New South Wales police and charged with grooming a 14 year old girl for sexual purposes. He pled not guilty to the original charge, but changed his plea on 1 May 2019 after the charge was reduced to sending indecent materials.

At the time of his arrest Champness was serving as priest in charge of St Paul’s Church in Ginninderra. After the diocese received a complaint about his conduct, it suspended Champness and turned its file over to the police for action.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Short, Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn said that when the diocese “became aware of a breach of our Code of Good Practice” Champness “was immediately suspended from his position. He subsequently resigned.”

“We have been caring for the victim and those affected by the actions of this clergyperson since we became aware of the matter. The Diocese is committed to providing a safe environment for children and young people. Following the guilty plea and subsequent sentencing the Diocese will initiate its own internal disciplinary processes.”

Champness returns to court next week for sentencing.