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Former Catholic brother wanted in Aust granted bail

Published: 12:02PM Monday December 03, 2012 Source: ONE News

Former Catholic brother and convicted sex offender Bernard Kevin McGrath has been granted bail while he considers his response to a bid to extradite him to Australia.

McGrath, 65, was remanded on bail for two weeks in Christchurch District Court this morning.

The former St John of God brother recently served two years in a New Zealand prison for sexually abusing boys,

He also spent time behind bars in the 1990s for similar offending.
McGrath had 252 fresh abuse charges laid against him in a Newcastle court on June 27.

It is alleged he repeatedly raped, molested and abused dozens of young boys at church-run institutions in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese during the late 1970s and 80s.

Defence counsel Phillip Allan said McGrath flew back from Sri Lanka on Thursday knowing he would be arrested.

"Instead of staying in Sri Lanka or running, he has chosen to come back," Allan said.

The court also heard today that McGrath was due to fly back to Christchurch from Sri Lanka next Saturday but he brought the flight forward.

'It brings back all those memories'

Those representing McGrath's victims cannot believe he had such freedom.

Ken Clearwater of  the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust said McGrath's victims felt safe when he was in prison.

"He's been released and he was able to travel so freely. And that's the part that really concerns them," Clearwater said.

"It brings back all those memories, and retraumatises the guys. And some of them have been doing okay over the last few years, and now this has brought all this stuff back up."

Last week, it was revealed that NSW Police were meant to extradite McGrath back to Australia to face the charges from Christchurch where he lived since being paroled in 2008.

But it was since learnt that McGrath was allowed to fly out of New Zealand some time after the charges were lodged and was staying on a tea plantation in the highlands of Sri Lanka.

Police say until they had an extradition request they had no reason to stop McGrath travelling.

Bail granted

In the Christchurch court this morning, Judge Jane Farish decided to allow bail, but demanded that he live with his sister in Christchurch.

Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh said the Crown opposed bail being granted because of the flight risk and the seriousness of the offending.

Judge Farish wondered if he posed a flight risk because he had been "moving around quite a lot".

Allan said: "He just wants to get everything resolved."

He said McGrath was "pretty high profile in terms of people who know what he looks like. He just needs to work out what he wants to do."

McGrath is not to apply for a replacement passport, and is not allowed to have contact directly or indirectly with a child under the age of 16.

He is also not allowed to come into contact with any primary and secondary school students unless driving past, and has to check in with Christchurch police three times a week.

There was some unrest in the public gallery while McGrath was making his appearance, and Judge Farish threatened to have to seats cleared if people did not stay silent.

He will appear in court again on December 17.

- with Fairfax

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