The Australian Anglican church's crisis over sexual assault allegations has broadened beyond the state of Queensland with the conviction last Friday of a former Anglican priest with a criminal record for paedophilia dating back more than 40 years.

Robert Ellmore, 64, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for abusing three girls, one as young as eight. He worked mainly in the New South Wales Diocese of Bathurst. He became a priest in 1976.

His criminal record for sex offences dated from the 1950s but there is no evidence to suggest his diocese knew of his offenses before he became a priest.

Outside the court, the mother of one of his victims denounced the church's handling of Ellmore as "amateurish." She claimed a church official told her he could not understand why Ellmore had assaulted her daughter, because his wife was "a pretty good sort: not ugly or overweight."

The mother compared the case to the one which has recently prompted calls for the resignation of the Australian governor-general, Dr Peter Hollingworth, the former Anglican archbishop of Brisbane in the state of Queensland.

Child protection groups have called for Hollingworth's resignation following allegations that he mishandled a sexual assault case during his time as archbishop. The respected national newspaper The Australian has reported widespread anger in the Brisbane Diocese.

In last week's criminal case in New South Wales, it was revealed that Robert Ellmore's sexual assault record dates back to 1957. In August 1992, a relative of Ellmore's wrote to church authorities telling them that Ellmore had again been convicted, this time of assaulting a five-year-old. On this occasion, Ellmore was fined $2,600 and given a five-year good behavior bond.

The letter led to ...

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