A High Court judge today backed a decision by the New Zealand Government to extradite a former Catholic brother to Australia to face 250 charges of child-sex abuse charges.
Australia requested the extradition of Bernard Kevin McGrath, 66, in November 2012 alleging that he raped, molested and abused dozens of young boys at one of Australia’s most prominent Catholic religious orders – the St John of God Brothers between 1977 and 1986. According to court evidence the institution which specialized in accommodating boys, many of whom had intellectual disabilities, had an entrenched culture of sexual abuse.
Originally from New Zealand, McGrath joined the St John of God Brothers (SJOG) in the 1960s at the age of 18. He trained at the order’s headquarters in Sydney and spent most of his working life SJOG institutions both in Australia and New Zealand. In 1991 in New Zealand two social workers contacted the police after reports from boys that he had sexually molested them and he was tried and sentenced to three years jail. In 1995, after McGrath completed his New Zealand jail term, police took him back to Sydney, where he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 1997 to nine months jail for offenses against another boy.
In 2002, more complainants contacted the New Zealand police concerning historic sexual assaults by McGrath and other SJOG Brothers. McGrath was found guilty of another 21 charges and he was sentenced to five years jail. He was released from his New Zealand jail on parole in February 2008, less than two years into his five-year term.
In late 2012, Australian police brought 252 new charges against him for offenses committed during his years in Australia. He was again arrested by New Zealand police and the authorities began applying for an extradition order which would force him to return to Australia to face the new charges. A District Court Judge granted the extradition, but the case was successfully appealed to the High Court. The case was then referred back to district court level, from where it was sent on to the Justice Minister at the time, Judith Collins who issued an order for his surrender across to Australia.
Police are about to re arrest McGrath who has challenged Ms Collins’ order as “totally unreasonable”. Although an application to review the decision has been declined, it is thought he may try to take his case back to the Court of Appeal.