Bishop of Broome not being prosecuted over sexual misconduct allegations

Police and prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against the Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders over allegations of sexual misconduct.

This decision comes just days before the Catholic Church deadline to decide Saunders’ future.

The Vatican started a separate, internal investigation into his management of the diocese. He was then sent on a six-month sabbatical, which is due to end on May 28.

Bishop Saunders strenuously denied any allegations of wrongdoing. He voluntarily stood aside from his post when the allegations were made public.

Western Australia Police submitted its findings to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) late last year.

The DPP assessed the brief and recommended against filing criminal charges.

The decision was communicated to church authorities earlier this month.

It will now be up to Vatican authorities and Pope Francis to decide whether the 71-year-old bishop is allowed to return to the Kimberley. Saunders has been a deacon, parish priest, and bishop in the area for almost 50 years.

The police investigation commenced in October 2018 following allegations from a man in his early 20’s. The man confided in his local priest and agreed to make a statement to the police.

The clock is now ticking for the Vatican to decide Bishop Saunders’ future.

The decision will be based on the findings of the church’s internal review, which was run by retired Bishop of Wollongong Peter Ingham.

Bishop Ingham travelled to Broome and interviewed dozens of parishioners, diocese staff and volunteers about the bishop’s management style and financial management.

In keeping with church protocols, it did not investigate the sexual misconduct allegations, so as not to complicate the police process.

However, it did examine the bishop’s decision-making in regards to separate allegations against several priests previously assigned to the diocese. This included a priest wanted for questioning over the alleged molestation of a teenage girl.

Monsignor Paul Boyers remains the day-to-day administrator of the Broome Diocese in Bishop Saunders’ ongoing absence.




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