Categorized | Perth news

Chaplain banned from WA prisons

CHRIS THOMSON

EXCLUSIVE: A prison chaplain banned from all Western Australian jails after being accused of trafficking information handed to him by an inmate has lost his claim for unfair dismissal.

A decision published online last week by WA Industrial Commissioner Stephen Kenner reveals that on February 6 last year prison chaplain Chacko (James) Varkey was leaving Woorooloo Prison when a prisoner gave him a handwritten note.

After leaving Wooroloo with the note in his bag, Mr Varkey attended Casuarina Prison on February 12.

He told Commissioner Kenner that when he arrived at Casuarina and looked in his bag he realised he had the note and handed it to Reverend Wright, the coordinating chaplain at the jail.

Reverend Wright realised that trafficking information out of or into a prison was a serious offence. He spoke to the head of security at Casuarina who told him the matter allegedly seemed to involve trafficking of information and that he would need to speak to the Casuarina superintendent, Ian Clark.

Before Commissioner Kenner, lawyers for Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe successfully argued that the subsequent decision by Superintendent Clark to ban Mr Varkey from Casuarina and, as a consequence, from entering any prison throughout the state, meant the church had no alternative but to terminate Mr Varkey’s employment.

Mr Varkey testified that, on February 18 at Casuarina, Superintendent Clark had told him he had breached security protocols and could be charged with the offence of trafficking information.

However, Reverend Wright testified the superintendent had told Mr Varkey he did not intend to bring charges.

Reverend Wright said Superintendent Clark had also asked whether there had been other matters in the past, and Mr Varkey said there had not been. Reverend Wright testified that he intervened to remind Mr Varkey that on a previous occasion Mr Varkey had allegedly brought a thumb drive into the prison.

Reverend Wright described Mr Varkey’s attitude when being questioned by Superintendent Clark as “belligerent”.

On February 27 the Chief Executive Officer of the archbishop’s office wrote to tell Mr Varkey of his immediate dismissal from the archbishop’s chaplaincy service.

Before Commissioner Kenner, Mr Varkey complained that he received no support from Archbishop Costelloe.

Mr Kenner concluded the archbishop: “could have handled the cessation of Mr Varkey’s employment better”.

“In my view it would have been more appropriate for the archbishop to have met with Mr Varkey and to have explained to him the consequences of what occurred arising from the Superintendent Clark’s decision,” he noted.

Mr Varkey had been a prison chaplain since July 2011.

Photo: Leon Brooks, Wikimedia Commons

Leave a Reply

Independent Perth news