Canberra priest sentenced to 9 years imprisonment for child rape

As she was being raped on a church pew, Aitchison muttered “please God forgive me,” the victim said

A former Anglican priest John Philip Aitchison, 67, has been sentenced to nine years imprisonment by a Canberra Court for raping a child.

On 13 August 2018 Justice Michael Elkaim of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court handed down sentence against Aitchison, who in May had been found guilty of five charges of rape and eight acts of indecency against a 13-year-old girl in Canberra in the 1980s.

At trial, the prosecution presented evidence that Aitchison had repeatedly raped the girl between July 1987 and October 1989. The first attack took place on a pew in church at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Ainslie (pictured) after the child had finished violin practice. The priest approached the girl and told her that if she prayed with him she would be able to see her pet dog, who had just died.

As she was being raped on a church pew, Aitchison muttered “please God forgive me,” the victim said.

The court heard evidence that Aitchison had molested two men, when they were boys. Aitchison’s attorney said the testimony of the male victims should exonerate his client in this case, as he was a homosexual and not interested in girls.  

The defense further argued the victim’s claims to have been raped were suspect, as she had waited so long to report the attack. However, the victim told the court that she was afraid to speak out, as she had confided to Aitchison before the assault that she had been abused by her father. The prosecution noted the one person to whom she confided, her priest, went on to rape her.

In his sentencing Justice Elkaim said Aitchison “is unquestionably a paedophile,” who had long escaped punishment for his crimes.” Justice Elkaim said he agreed with the victim’s impact statement, and described Aitchison as “effortlessly careless, casual, commanding, authoritarian, and coolly arrogant.”

Aitchison will be eligible for parole in April 2023.


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