Witness testifies to alleged sexual abuse at Saanich church
Warning: The following story contains graphic testimony of a sexual nature that could be upsetting to some readers.
An alleged victim of a former Saanich priest testified Tuesday that Phillip Jacobs molested him a number of times more than a decade ago, while attending St. Joseph the Worker Catholic School on Burnside Road West.
The young man, who can’t be identified, described to the court and Justice J. Miriam Gropper a number of incidents of sexual touching during his time as an altar server under direction of Jacobs, at the time the parish priest.
Led by the questioning of Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings on the second day of the trial, the witness said the pattern of touching by Jacobs escalated from a hand on the back, then to his buttocks and then to more direct molestation.
He went on to describe an incident where Jacobs took him to a secondary room attached to an anteroom behind the church altar, where altar servers prepare for ceremonies.
In the secondary room, the witness testified that Jacobs “touched my genitals” with his hand, under the robe, and there was quick “skin to skin” contact.
The witness described another time he volunteered to move bibles between the church and the elementary school during lunch hour.
In the room behind the altar, the witness said Jacobs again touched his genitals, and then made the witness put his hand on Jacobs’ genitals – again brief “skin to skin” contact.
“He took my hand and pressed it into his pants,” he told the court. “He used one hand to move my hand, and his other hand was around my neck.”
The witness said he didn’t see a pattern to Jacobs behaviour and was unsure how many times the priest allegedly molested him, other than it was more than once and “less than 12” times.
Until eventually telling a girlfriend later in life and then the Saanich police, the witness said he hadn’t told anyone about the abuse.
“It was all very confusing and I was upset,” he said. “I was taught priests can be trusted and confided in and are good people. It was tough to understand.”
Jacobs, 63, is charged with sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference of a person under 14 and touching a young person for a sexual purpose.
The charges involve three minors under the age of 14, with alleged incidents spanning September 1996 to June 2001, all within Saanich. Jacobs was arrested Aug. 4, 2010 and released on $25,000 bail.
In the second half of the day, Jacobs’ lead defence attorney Chris Considine chipped away at the credibility of the witness’s narrative of events, and honed in on the fact the witness was unable to recall a number of details about his time as an altar server.
The witness was unable to give a ballpark estimate of how many times he served as an altar server in St. Joseph the Worker church, although he suggested he did the job over three school years.
Considine asked why he didn’t stop being a server if he was being abused. “I was scared and confused,” the witness said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Holding up documents provided by the school, Considine suggested the witness acted as an altar server at the church over only two school years, that altar servers were chosen at random for services, and that the witness may have only served in the position a single time. The witness denied that.
The defence attorney told the court it wasn’t possible that the witness was in the presence of Jacobs all that often.
“So if you served during mass, (the number of times) must have been extremely few,” Considine said. “Your involvement on a physical level with Phillip Jacobs must have been not over two years, but maybe over a few months.”
The witness agreed with Considine that the potential window for sexual touching was smaller than he had first asserted, and that the witness had told a police detective and a trauma counsellor details of the abuse that weren’t correct.
“I could have been confused,” he said. “You don’t know how scared I was and confused.”
Near to the end of questioning, Considine asserted, “you were never abused by Phillip Jacobs were you?”
“Yes I was,” the witness shot back.
The trial continues this week.