Six years for paedophile priest


Convicted child abuser George Kerkhoff walks to Brits Magistrate's Court on 3 April 2014.

JOHANNESBURG - A Catholic priest who was extradited from South Africa to Germany last year has been sentenced to six years in prison.

 On Friday a German court sentenced 56-year-old Georg Kerkhoff to six years in prison on charges of sexually abusing children.

The former Randburg priest and paedophile was charged with more than 20 cases of sexual abuse of children, The New Age reported on Monday.

He was found guilty of eight cases of sexual abuse of children under his protection, 13 cases of sexual abuse of children and four cases of severe sexual abuse of children.

Kerkhoff reportedly committed the crimes in Krefeld and Nettetal, Germany, from 2001 to 2006. Two years later, while preaching in South Africa, he was accused of sexually abusing children during a religious camp.

The Saturday Star reported in January that Kerkhoff used alcohol, drugs, sex toys and a parish sauna while molesting boys in Germany.

When the allegations of sexual abuse surfaced, the Catholic diocese in Germany sent Kerkhoff to South Africa, where he was later accused of abusing five children at a First Communion camp in Brits in 2008.

Archbishop William Slattery of the Pretoria diocese told that the Catholic Church in South Africa investigated Kerkhoff while he was still in the country after church members had laid complaints.

"It&39;s perfectly right what has happened," said Slattery of the sentence. "Child abuse is an abominable crime."

According to a church administrator in Johannesburg, Kerkhoff arrived in South Africa from Germany without the correct paperwork, as stipulated by the Catholic Church.

"The policy is that every priest that comes into any archdiocese worldwide has to have papers stating that they are clear of any accusations or allegations of impropriety," said Allan Schwarer, who headed the church investigation.

Schwarer is a member of the archdiocese of Johannesburg&39;s professional conduct committee. He was in charge of the investigation into Kerkhoff&39;s conduct.

"The German archdiocese did not disclose any such information to the archdiocese of Johannesburg," said Schwarer in a statement.

Slattery agreed. "When this man came to this country, the bishop from his home country should have told us."

He said, "I don&39;t know what happened. There was a break in communication or something."

"If we had known we would never have allowed him to exercise priestly ministry in South Africa."

Four boys who attended a German-language Catholic youth camp near Johannesburg in 2008 complained about Kerkhoff. The boys  -- then aged nine and 10 -- said Kerkhoff invited them to sleep in his bed and sexually assaulted them.

Last June the case against Kerkhoff in Brits, North West, was withdrawn on condition that Interpol extradite him to Germany.

"We took him to the airport and handed him over to the German police. He will face trial in Germany," police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini told the Associated Foreign Press at the time.

While Kerkhoff was found guilty of child sexual abuse crimes committed in Germany, the cases filed in South Africa have not been resolved, as they were dropped when he was extradited.

Now that he has been found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison for crimes committed in Germany, Kerkhoff would in all likelihood be "laid aside" from preaching, said Slattery.

"Normally what happens here now, if he were our responsibility in South Africa, he would be immediately referred to the Vatican that he would be laid aside."

"He&39;s not regarded as a working priest anymore," he said.

Administrating Kirchoff&39;s dismissal from the church would be managed by the Vatican, said a church worker.
- This story was ammended so that a quote by Slattery reads "he would immediately be referred to the Vatican" and not "he would immediately be referred to South Africa" as previously appeared.
- Additional reporting by;s Erin Bates.

Paid Content