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Catholic cardinal accused of sexual abuse fails in court bid to prevent story

Author
Ethan Griffiths,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Mar 2024, 3:46pm
Cardinal John Dew has failed in his attempt to prevent a Newshub story going to air. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Cardinal John Dew has failed in his attempt to prevent a Newshub story going to air. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Catholic cardinal accused of sexual abuse fails in court bid to prevent story

Author
Ethan Griffiths,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Mar 2024, 3:46pm

One of New Zealand’s most senior Catholics has failed in his last-ditch attempt to prevent a media company from detailing sexual abuse allegations against him.

Cardinal John Dew, a former Archbishop of Wellington who was made a Cardinal by Pope Francis in 2015, is the subject of a yet-to-air Newshub story accusing him of sexual abuse.

He sought an injunction against Warner Bros. Discovery NZ to prevent Newshub’s story going to air.

He first sought the injunction in the High Court, but failed.

He appealed to the Court of Appeal, again failing, and then took his case to the Supreme Court.

Today the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal.

The judgement says Newshub’s story detailed allegations from Steven and Linda Carvell.

They were aged 7 and 8 in November 1977 when the alleged conduct is said to have occurred at St Joseph’s Orphanage in Upper Hutt.

Cardinal Dew says the alleged abuse did not happen, telling the court there is independent evidence showing it could not have happened.

Police investigated the allegations but no charges will be laid, the decision says.

In 2021 while still Archbishop of Wellington, Dew apologised to victims who suffered abuse in the church’s care.

Dew said people should have been able to trust the church and those who abused them. He acknowledged that instead “we caused you pain, hurt and trauma and this continues to impact you”.

“Any kind of abuse is unacceptable and indefensible. We are deeply sorry.”

Cardinal John Dew made an apology to survivors of abuse on behalf of the bishops and congregational leaders in New Zealand. Photo / File
Cardinal John Dew made an apology to survivors of abuse on behalf of the bishops and congregational leaders in New Zealand. Photo / File

In a statement, police told NZME no charges would be laid.

“After conducting extensive enquiries into the case, including speaking to a number of potential witnesses, police have exhausted all available lines of enquiry into the case.

“Pursuant to the Solicitor General’s Prosecution Guidelines, police were unable to locate sufficient evidence to meet the evidential test – which requires sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction.

“As such the case has now been closed, however police will always consider new information that may come to light in relation to an investigation.

“Police have worked hard in this case to locate all available evidence.

The statement said investigations into historic allegations were complex.

“Evidence is often harder to locate or no longer exists as potential witnesses and suspects may pass away, and physical evidence may no longer be available.”

Who is John Dew?

Born in Waipawa, Dew went on to study for the priesthood in Christchurch.

He was ordained priest in 1976 and appointed an assistant priest at St Joseph’s Parish in Upper Hutt between 1976 and 1979, where the abuse is said to have occurred.

He was later appointed a bishop of the Wellington Archdiocese in 1995. Wellington’s Sacred Heart Cathedral was too small for the expected congregation, so he was consecrated bishop in an at-capacity Wellington Town Hall.

He was appointed Archbishop of Wellington in May 2004 by Pope John Paul II, succeeding the late Cardinal Tom Williams.

In 2015, Pope Francis appointed him only the fourth New Zealand cardinal. In May last year, on Dew’s 75th birthday, Pope Francis accepted his resignation as Archbishop of Wellington.

He was previously the president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishop’s Conference.

Ethan Griffiths covers crime and justice stories nationwide for Open Justice. He joined NZME in 2020, previously working as a regional reporter in Whanganui and South Taranaki.

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