SA Catholic Brother acquitted of indecent assault of student

Adelaide 5000

A South Australian Catholic Brother who was accused of sexually abusing a student in the late 1960s has been acquitted by the state’s Supreme Court, which found their relationship “unusual, if not suspicious”, but not criminal.

Key points:

  • Joseph William Weygood not guilty of three counts of indecent assault.
  • The alleged abuse was said to have started when Mr Weygood was a teacher at St Joseph’s
  • It had been alleged the victim was one of his favourite students

Auxiliary Justice Michael David today found Joseph William Weygood, 77, not guilty of two counts of indecent assault against one of his students at St Joseph’s College, at Mitchell Park.

A further count of indecent assault was thrown out.

During the trial, the complainant gave evidence about the culture at the school, which included corporal punishment and his “usually close and tactile relationship” with Mr Weygood over the three years he was at St Joseph’s College.

“St Joseph’s was run by the Catholic order of Marist Brothers and the accused was a Brother at the school during the relevant period,” Justice David said in his judgement.

“[The complainant] gave evidence of the level of corporal punishment which he described as involving ‘brutality’ and ‘cruelty’ and was the norm for all boys attending the school.

“It included regular canings and strappings, both on the buttocks and the hands.

“He described the accused as the most brutal of the Brothers in administering physical discipline. He said in evidence that students were hit every day.

“It is to be noted that the defence took no issue with this aspect of the prosecution case.”

Evidence that students were ‘manhandled in playful manner’

Justice David said the complainant gave evidence that Mr Weygood had his favourite students and would “often manhandle them in a playful manner” which included “grabbing, holding and tickling”.

“Over the years, the complainant complained to various people about the beatings he received from the accused, but made no complaint concerning sexual allegations until he reported it to the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Responses to Child Sex Abuse in November 2016,” he said.

The judge said the prosecution led evidence from the complainant’s sister and tendered an affidavit from District Court Judge Paul Slattery, who was a fellow student at St Joseph’s College.

“[He] spoke of the culture of the school, including the nature of corporal punishment and the close relationship between the accused and the complainant,” she said.

“His Honour [Slattery] then described how the accused had his ‘pets’.

“He saw him regularly having physical contact with his ‘pet’ students by touching them around the body in a playful manner.”

Justice David found the relationship between Mr Weygood and the complainant as “unusual, if not suspicious”.

“Nevertheless, in deciding whether it is proved that these events [sexual abuse] happened, I am short of the certainty that is required to convict,” he said.

“Being in that state of mind, I find the accused not guilty of both counts.”