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Victim of paedophile former priest William Dowel offers full forgiveness

A childhood victim of an elderly pedophile former Anglican priest has faced his tormentor in a Melbourne courtroom and offered him "my complete forgiveness" for sexual abuse committed almost 40 years ago.
"I want to be free of this burden," the man said of making his pardon in a victim impact statement he read to the County Court, which also spoke of not knowing "what love is".
"I will never be who I was meant to be," he said of the "torment" that led to prostitution and drugs and the past that "lurked in the back of my mind".
It was not the only act of mercy bestowed on William Richard Dowel, 88, as a judge also spared him a prison cell because his age and ill-health would probably cause his death behind bars.
Dowel was the reverend at St Philip's West Heidelberg when he assaulted three boys aged 12 to 16 between 1973 and 1977 at the vicarage, his residence.
The County Court heard he often offered boys alcohol after playing table tennis or basketball in a back room and twice one victim woke to find Dowel assaulting him while another was assaulted during a game of hide and seek.
Prosecutor David Cordy told Judge Liz Gaynor that Dowel, who kissed, fondled and performed oral sex on a third victim, twice said: "Oh my conscience" after two acts.
Mr Cordy said three of the five charges of indecent assault to which Dowel pleaded guilty were "representative" of similar incidents that occurred on more than a dozen occasions.
When the third victim reported some of the offending to police in 2001, he was wrongly told Dowel had died, and it was not until 2010, after he found he might be alive, that he tried again.
Defence counsel Rod Willcox said Dowel had worked in London and Africa before positions in churches at Inverleigh, near Geelong, Brunswick and Balwyn before returning in 1990.
Mr Willcox said Dowel, who never married, had been stripped of his licence to practice, and had heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and arthritis and was "quite frail".
Mr Cordy conceded a wholly or partly suspended sentence was available, and while his guilty pleas were indicative of remorse, he said what Dowel told a psychologist (that his pleas were a "conflict" for him) indicated he had no remorse.
In her sentencing, Judge Gaynor acknowledged the "overwhelming and disastrous" consequences for the victims, their "unending agony" and daily stress, grief, depression, helplessness and "fight against pessimism".
She told Dowel if the charges had proceeded when he was younger and less frail "I would not hesitate to jail you" as the community "pays a very high price in ruined lives, dashed hopes and psychological dysfunction".
But Judge Gaynor said any sentence for Dowel that involved actual prison "is virtually a death sentence" given his age, frailty and medical conditions.
Dowel was jailed for three years, the term suspended for three years, and put on the sex offender register for life.


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