School head told to keep kids from predator priest

A Catholic school principal yesterday detailed the lengths she had to go to in the early 1990s to save pupils and staff from a drunken predator priest in Melbourne.

Patricia Taylor told the child sex abuse royalCOMMISSION that she had received “off the record” warnings from the Victorian Catholic Education Office about then newly appointed parish priest in North Richmond, Father Wilfred “Bill” Baker, but had received no help from church authorities when she requested he be placed elsewhere.

Ms Taylor was principal of St James Primary School when Baker was appointed parish priest, and effectively herEMPLOYER, in 1992.

She said she was invited to a meeting with representatives of the Catholic Education Office regarding Baker and found it unusual as he had already been appointed but hadn’t yet started in the role.

“As I understood, it was an off-the-record meeting,” she said. “I was given four very particular warnings about Father Baker.”

Ms Taylor said she was told not to let children be alone with Baker, not to let children go into the confessional alone behind closed doors, not to give staff contact details to Baker and for herself not to be alone with him.

She said the representatives mentioned that allegations had been made against Baker in other parishes.

“My view is he shouldn’t have come to North Richmond,” she said. “I felt quiteVULNERABLE, I felt quite abandoned.

“I was charged withPROTECTING a community from someone who was known to have quite serious allegations against him.”

Ms Taylor then went toREGIONAL bishop Peter Connors to ask for help.

“He said to me ‘research shows that once a pedophile, always a pedophile’,” she said.

“I guess I went to that meeting expecting the decision to send Father Baker to Richmond would be rescinded.’’

Ms Taylor did not hear from Bishop Connors again and was forced to implement strategies to protect the children in her care.

She told theCOMMISSION that Baker would call her office and ask her to send a child to the presbytery with a newspaper or similar item, but she would make an excuse that she needed to drop papers off for him to sign and would go herself.

She said she had warned teachers there had been allegations about Baker, who was convicted of child sex abuse in 1995 and has since died.