Borne Convicted

November 29, 2011

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A Roman Catholic priest sat next to his lawyer with his head lowered as the judge convicted him of indecently assaulting a teenage boy in 1979.

Following the four-day trial in Pembroke Superior Court, Monsignor Robert Borne, 63, was found guilty of indecent assault and gross indecency for the 1979 incident which occurred at the rectory in Griffith and acquitted of the same charges in relation to incidents alleged to have occurred in 1981 at the St. Columbkille Cathedral rectory, in Pembroke, where the priest lived at the time.

In delivering the verdict, Madame Justice Julianne Parfett explained that while she found the alleged victim from the 1981 events to be an unreliable witness because of the number of contradictions and inconsistencies in his testimony, she also found Msgr. Borne to be evasive while testifying in his own defence, contrary to his lawyer's assertion that his client testified in a straight-forward manner without contradictions.

Despite the contradictions and inconsistencies of the witness, the judge conceded that the first alleged incident in the bedroom "probably occurred". With this concession and the conviction, it revealed a pattern on the defendant's pattern of taking advantage of drunk teenagers.

Justice Parfett agreed with Assistant Crown attorney John Pepper, who prosecuted the case, that some of the evidence provided by the defendant was illogical and lacking in common sense. The judge felt Msgr. Borne was evasive as to whether he provided the alcohol to the then teenage boys while they were visiting the rectory. She said he was a mature adult at the time and since the alcohol was his and located in the private area of the residence, he would have shown the teens where it was located and given some indication they had permission to help themselves.

She said one of the telling answers of his testimony came on one of the final questions asked by his own attorney Robert Carew, if he felt he in any way assaulted or indecently assaulted either of the alleged victims.

Quoting his response "I'm willing to bet if you ask anyone who really knows me, they would say absolutely not. I'm not a forceful person and I don't demand of people," Justice Parfett called this answer to a simple and direct question to be non-responsive and evasive.

She also felt the defendant was generally evasive when it came to answering questions in relation to his sexual orientation. She pointed out that although he reluctantly agreed to agreed to having a series of relationships with men, he denied he was homosexual.

"It is commonly accepted that men who prefer sex with men are homosexual," she said.

On the charges Msgr. Borne was convicted on, Justice Parfett said the victim's evidence was consistent throughout, adding he was "scrupulously honest" while giving his testimony.

Surrounding the issue of consent, she accepted the witness' testimony that he would not have consented because he had no interest in men as sexual partners. The accused even testified that he had never heard that the victim had relationships with men.

Although the victim could not remember the details surrounding the incident, his recollection of the incident itself was clear, Justice Parfett noted, down to the feeling of the priest's stubble on his teenage face when he kissed him, the attempt of performing oral sex, but that it didn't last long and that he went rigid and felt paralyzed.

She did not accept the argument of the defence who argued that the then 16-year-old boy could have reacted to the priest's advances by saying no or leaving but didn't.

The judge believes it is impossible for someone else to speculate how he would have reacted in the situation, especially since it was an individual who the teen trusted.

"I would be very reluctant to attribute the consent of (the victim) on the basis that he could have reacted but did not," Justice Parfett said.

In his own words, Msgr. Borne admitted to mutual fondling while he and the teen shared a bed, but he would not acknowledge that the act was done for his own pleasure.

The judge said the only logical purpose of the groping is sexual gratification.

Following the conviction, the Diocese of Pembroke issued a release expressing its sincere compassion to the individuals who brought forth the charges concerning Msgr. Borne.

"We recognize the anguish with which they are struggling," the release said. "These charges are challenging for all involved in the process. In respect to the decision rendered by the court, the Diocese of Pembroke continues to pledge pastoral concern to all involved in this matter."

Bruce Pappin, spokesman for the diocese, confirmed Msgr. Borne remains relieved of his duties within the church, which occurred with the charges were laid in 2009 and that the matter has been referred to the Vatican for further investigation.

Justice Parfett ordered a presentence report. Msgr. Borne will be sentenced April 10, 2012.

Tina Peplinskie is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

Copyright © 2011 The Daily Observer

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