James Joseph Cunneen, a catholic priest who was found guilty of assaulting six teenage boys has died a month before his trial was set to begin.

 

 

Disgraced former Catholic Priest James Joseph Cunneen, who was found guilty of indecent assault against six teenage boys in New South Wales in the late 1980s, has died before he could be sentenced.

60-year old Mr Cunneen was due to be sentenced in Downing Centre District Court on 14 February 2020. He was arrested, charged and prosecuted last year after information given to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2014.

After an extensive investigation, police extradited Mr Cunneen back to Australia in 2017 where he was charged.

 

Molested in their sleep

Mr Cunneen was originally ordained as a priest in his native country, New Zealand, in 1979 and worked within the Catholic church both New Zealand and Australia before leaving the church in 1997 and returning to New Zealand.

After leaving the church, he worked for the Department of Education for three years, and then took a job running betting agencies across New Zealand’s north island.

Originally charged with 10 child sex offences against eight teenagers, a jury found Cunneen guilty for acts committed against six of them.

During the trial, the court heard that Mr Cunneed had molested the boys in various locations and situations, including while they were sleeping.

Mr Cunneen had a fatal heart attack on 28 December 2019 and died in the intensive care unit at Blacktown Hospital in Sydney.

 

Originally charged with 10 child sex offences against eight teenagers, a jury found Cunneen guilty for acts committed against six of them.

 

Since the Royal Commission’s final report, several high profile Catholic priests including George Pell have been tried and found guilty of sexually abusing children.

Others including Adelaide Archbishop Phillip Wilson have been convicted of concealing a serious indictable offence after covering up sexual abuse committed by the convicted child sex offender, priest James Fletcher, which had occurred in the New South Wales Hunter region in the 1970s.

 

 

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