Sydney priest found guilty after smacking boy in church

A Sydney Catholic priest has been found guilty of common assault after he smacked a child in a church.

Fr Terrence Millard of St John Vianney and St Thomas More parish in Greenacre was found guilty in Bankstown Local Court, but no conviction was recorded against him.

The priest denied having hit eight-year-old “Peter” (not his real name), in the upper buttocks region, for perceived bad behaviour in church.

A letter from Fr Millard to the Sydney Catholic Education Office confirmed there were 42 students and a teacher in the church on September 11.

The priest’s version of events stated there were several troublesome children, the teacher had been distracted and Peter had slid across the pew and “started pulling faces at people who had been to confession”.

He said he merely escorted Peter to a station of the cross and ordered him to stay there.

The boy’s version of events alleged Fr Millard grabbed him and positioned him in front of a station of the cross, and then the smack was delivered.

The testimony of a teacher who witnessed the incident led to the guilty verdict against Fr Millard.

Peter’s mother said in the days after the incident, her son had become deeply troubled and could not sleep, fearing further punishment.

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Sydney described the incident as “extremely regrettable”.

“Fr Millard is on leave and discussions are underway about his future,” she said.

Fr Millard’s lawyer said his client possessed an “unbelievably good reputation” and had worked “tirelessly” for the community.

“This poor bloke’s life has been ruined, destroyed. He cannot be a priest anymore because he tried to chastise a child, as he was entitled to do in his own church.”

Peter’s parents were further upset when it was announced at Mass in Greenacre that the court case had gone the priest’s way.

A parish bulletin also stated the case against Fr Millard had been dismissed.

The archdiocese spokeswoman said a correction will be published that “very clearly and factually states what happened”.


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