Maitland-Newcastle priest David O’Hearn charged with nine child sex offences

Charges: Maitland-Newcastle Catholic priest David O’Hearn in 1999. Strike Force Georgiana detectives on Tuesday charged him with fresh child sex offences.

LAKE Macquarie Strike Force Georgiana detectives have charged Catholic Maitland-Newcastle diocesepriest David O’Hearn with fresh child sex offences.

O’Hearn, 56, was charged at Wagga Wagga police station on Tuesday with nine counts of aggravated indecent assault of a boy atBooragul in 1994. O’Hearn was taken to the police station from Junee Correctional Centre where he is serving a minimum nine years’ jail following previous convictions for child sex offences.

O’Hearn was stood down as a priest in 2008 after the diocese was advised of child sex allegations against him. He was convicted of multiple offences against young boys in the 1980s and 1990s but appealed and won the right to further trials.

He sought leave to appeal to the High Court to have separate trials on some of the matters and was partially successful. He was eventually found guilty of 44 offences against six boys and sentenced in August, 2016 to 18 years’ jail, with a minimum sentence of nine years.

O’Hearn was a deacon at Waratah parish in 1985 and Singleton in 1986. He was ordained in late 1986 and became an assistant priest at Muswellbrook in 1987. He was assistant priest at St Joseph’s parish in Cessnock by 1990 before moving to Windale and Toronto parishes.

He was at Rutherford parish between 1995 and 1999, a “priest in residence” at Mayfield in 2000, acting parish priest at Swansea between 2001 and 2003 and parish priest at St Michael’s, Nelson Bay in 2004.

In 1998 O’Hearn was at the centre of a very public dispute with RutherfordCatholic primary school principal Mike Stanwell over the school’s future. After Mr Stanwell was stood down parents petitioned the then Bishop Michael Malone for the principal’s reinstatement, but the bishop backed the priest.

After O’Hearn was convicted of offences in 2016 Bishop Bill Wright released a statement saying he had requested Vatican authorities to remove O’Hearn from the priesthood. He will appear in court on the fresh charges at a later date.

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