Court blocks abuse proceedings against Tasmanian bishop

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The Supreme Court of Tasmania has granted a September 2018 petition filed by lawyers for the Rt. Rev. Philip Newell, retired Bishop of Tasmania, suspending disciplinary proceedings initiated by the diocese against him for misconduct. The court accepted the plea the bishop was too ill to respond to the charges.

The diocese reported on 4 June 2019 that its attorneys had been informed by the court the bishop’s petition had been granted. In February 2017 the current Bishop of Tasmania, the Rt. Rev. Richard Condie said he had referred Bishop Newell to a church disciplinary tribunal following the publication of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Case Study 36 – The response of the Church of England Boy’s Society and the Anglican Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney to allegations of child sexual abuse.

“I am disappointed that people who were abused won’t find closure in this matter and acknowledge there will be many who will be saddened by this outcome,” Bishop Condie said this week.

In 2017 Bishop Condie wrote:

“The Report details the findings of the Royal Commission on the activities of CEBS in Tasmania and other places. It reminds us once again of the terrible sin of sexual abuse, and the ongoing damage it causes in people’s lives. I am aware that many in this Diocese and beyond have been, and continue to be, affected by it. The survivors continue to suffer a great deal and need to be regularly in our prayers for healing and wholeness. The insidious nature of the abuse also means that the trauma is felt by many others related directly and indirectly to it.”

“The Royal Commission’s Report raised some serious failures of the Diocese of Tasmania in handling these matters in the past. It is critical of the way in which the former Bishop of Tasmania, The Right Revd Philip Newell AO acted in response to complaints of sexual abuse in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In light of this, I have initiated a process of Church discipline under our Ministry and Tribunal Ordinance in relation to Bishop Newell.”

The Commission heard evidence that in 1987 Bishop Newell was informed a priest, the Rev. Louis Daniels had sexually abused three boys. Bishop Newell appointed Daniels to the post of archdeacon of Burnie in 1989 after Deniels promised not to offend again. In 2005 Daniels pled guilty to 13 charges of abusing 10 boys as young as 11 between 1974 and 1993. He was sentenced to 90 months imprisonment.  

A formal investigation by the Episcopal Standards Commission recommended that charges be laid against Bishop Newell and a disciplinary tribunal be convened to hear the matter. The court ruling ends legal proceedings against the 89 year old bishop.