Response: Misleading and Mischievous

Feb 14, 2013 | Media, Safeguarding & Redress

A Sydney newspaper had been “stalking” an elderly man for weeks since late 2012. When they finally discovered his address they waited until they could entrap him, reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald Thursday 14 February that this “Brother accused of child abuse (had been) left unsupervised”.

In 2005 Br William Lebler, of the St John of God Order, was charged with sexual abuse by New Zealand Police, who applied for his extradition. The application failed in the NSW Local Court with the Sydney Magistrate finding that Br Lebler would not get a fair trial due to his infirmity and the passage of time. Since that time Br William Lebler, now 90 years of age, has lived in complete, supervised retirement, for the last several years at a gated nursing home at Surry Hills.

It was from the nursing home on Monday 11 February, on a regular visit the short distance by taxi to and from an AA meeting in the CBD, that Br Lebler was “sprung” by the Sydney Morning Herald, whose representatives filmed him, photographed him, tried to interview him, his sponsor and another companion from AA. The newspaper claimed “that Br Lebler’s outing has raised concerns that even as inquiries into child abuse involving religious institutions get underway in NSW and at the national level, suspected paedophiles associated with religious orders are still not being properly supervised”.

Br Timothy Graham, the head of the St John of God Order in Australia, said this regular visit to Alcoholics Anonymous is akin to therapy and a long way from what was implied “that some monster, some threat to humanity, was on the loose ….” Br Graham said categorically that accommodation and supervision paid for by their Religious Order should and does in most cases offer absolute comfort to the community. “It is misleading and mischievous to write at such length and with such prominence in Sydney’s leading daily newspaper that this matter was a threat to anyone,” Br Graham concluded.