Church waited 17 years to act on priest who ‘raped’ SA child
That kind of allegation wasn't reported back then 'as a matter of course', say Jesuits of Britain
Despite “well-founded” allegations, a UK Roman Catholic order waited for nearly 17 years before they reported a priest to police for the alleged rape, sodomy and molestation of an SA street child.
The Jesuits of Britain confirmed in an e-mail to Times Select on Wednesday that they only reported the allegations to the UK police in 2017, despite being made aware of them in 2001.
The Jesuits are a Catholic order of priests.
The 84-year-old priest, whose name is known to Times Select, is now living in a Jesuit retirement home in southern England.
Because of the allegations he is monitored by senior church officials under a safety management plan.
On Tuesday, Limpopo father and husband William Segodisho, with the help of SA child rights and anti-sexual abuse organisations, broke his nearly 30-year silence about his alleged rape and molestation by the priest.
The abuse allegedly occurred over four years at the hands of the priest, who was on secondment to SA. The priest, who arrived in SA in 1984, was the director of the former Street Wise and Process children’s homes in Hillbrow, Johannesburg.
Segodisho’s abuse is alleged to have begun in 1985, shortly after he ran away from his home in Limpopo to Johannesburg after he was involved in violent protests with the apartheid-era police in Polokwane, then Pietersburg.
The abuse, claims Segodisho, was “repayment” for the priest for enrolling him at several of the country’s top private schools in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, introducing him to the Catholic faith, buying him clothes from Edgars, taking him on holiday to Amanzimtoti outside Durban, and taking him to restaurants.
“After the second rape, I resigned myself to my fate,” said Segodisho, who recounted in harrowing detail how he was allegedly repeatedly raped and molested by the priest.
Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini confirmed a case of sexual assault was being investigated by detectives from the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit.
Assistant to the UK Jesuit Provincial, Father Paul Nicholson, said in an e-mailed response that “to the best of my knowledge”, despite being alerted to the allegations in 2001, the order informed neither the South African or UK police of the allegations.
“In more recent times, such allegations would be reported to the police. The Jesuits in Britain have now reported this matter to the British police. Such reporting did not take place as a matter of course at the time when we first received Segodisho’s report, perhaps because it was felt that it was for the one making the allegations to decide whether he or she wanted to report the matter to the police.”
Nicholson said they had reported the allegations to the UK police in 2017.
He said they were aware of the SA police investigation, and would cooperate fully with the enquiries, “which we have not as yet been invited to contribute to”.
Nicholson said they became aware of the abuse following reports from Segodisho in 2001 and 2002.
“Only then did we learn of his claim that he had previously tried to disclose the situation to others in the church.”
He said a Jesuit investigation was carried out after Segodisho contacted the Jesuits directly in 2002.
“The conclusion was that the allegations were well founded. The ban on [the priest] engaging in public ministry, which had been in place since Segodisho’s report was received, was made permanent. The priest was moved first to a Jesuit community in central London, and later to the Jesuit care facility in southern England, where he remains to this day. In both places he has been subject to supervision under a safety management plan.”
He said that during the Jesuit investigation in 2002, Segodisho was interviewd by a lawyer and a psychologist.
“More recently, the Jesuit Province Safeguarding Officer in Britain has spoken with Segodisho about his allegations.
“We have offered him money to pay for appropriate counselling on a number of occasions. Segodisho has at times made use of such counselling. An ex-gratia payment was made to Segodisho in 2003,” said Nicholson when asked if Segodisho had been offered reparations for the alleged abuse.
Segodisho said on Tuesday he had been offered R25,000.
He said he had finally decided to go public with his allegations after the Catholic Church repeatedly blocked his attempts to have the priest reported to the police and have him extradited to SA to stand trial for his alleged crimes.
His fight for justice was renewed by the “Sidney Frankel Eight” case, where the Constitutional Court in June removed the statute of limitations on when cases of sexual assault prescribe.
The court ruled that a section of the Criminal Procedure Act, which imposed a 20-year limit on the prosecution for sexual assault, was unconstitutional. Up until June, only rape survivors had been able to lay criminal charges after the 20-year limitation.
Until 2007, victims of forced male-on-male sexual penetration could only lay charges of sexual assault. The Sexual Offences Act was amended with the creation of a new definition of rape. The new definition included men and also objects and genitals.