Priest on sex charge named  

Priest on sex charge named  

THE Herald can now reveal Branxton Catholic parish priest Father James Fletcher is the clergyman charged with indecently assaulting a boy younger than 18.
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Father James Patrick Fletcher

The offence allegedly occurred at Maitland between the end of December 1977 and the end of March 1978.

Father Fletcher, 62, of Crebert Street, Mayfield, has pleaded not guilty and is on leave from his parish.

The alleged victim, now an adult, cannot be identified.

Father Fletcher is on bail with conditions that he have no contact with children younger than 16 without adult supervision, not contact six particular males, and remain living at Mayfield.

Maitland Local Court magistrate Stephen Jackson imposed a blanket non-publication order on the case on September 27.

The Herald (Newcastle Newspapers), Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Nine (television) Network applied to have the ban lifted.

Mr Jackson formally revoked his order on Thursday last week and then imposed a two-day embargo to allow Father Fletcher’s legal representatives time to consider applying to the Supreme Court for non-publication to continue.

Father Fletcher’s team took no further action.

Barrister Dauid Sibtain, for the media outlets, told Mr Jackson last Monday that the local court did not have power to impose the blanket non-publication order and even if power existed there was no legal basis or necessity for the order.

When lifting the order Mr Jackson released a 12-page written statement in which he said the order was imposed after a request by police prosecutor Danny Maher which was supported by Father Fletcher’s solicitor Greg Murray.

Mr Jackson’s statement said that Father Fletcher was to face the district court on another matter and non-publication of the local court matter had aimed to help ensure he received a fair trial and that district court proceedings not be delayed or affected by media coverage.

Father Fletcher’s indecent assault case has been adjourned to Maitland Local Court on December 6.