Priest touched genitals, witness says

Dates, details in testimony conflict with statement to police: defence

Warning: This story contains graphic details.

A former student at St. Joseph's Catholic School said he was scared and confused when Father Phil Jacobs touched his genitals in a back room of the parish church.

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The young man, whose identity is protected by a court order, appeared ill at ease as he testified Tuesday at Jacobs's trial by judge in B.C. Supreme Court.

Jacobs, 63, was parish priest at St. Joseph the Worker in Saanich from 1997 to 2002. He is charged with sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference with a person under 14 and sexual touching. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between September 1996 and June 30, 2001.

"It was all very confusing," the young man said. "When you went to school, you're taught that priests are someone you can trust, that you can confide in. They were good people. It's tough to understand that."

The former student testified that the touching began when he was in Grade 5 and progressed over two years, taking place before or after school masses. He testified that the first time Jacobs touched him on his upper back and shoulders, he was not concerned. But the touching progressed to his buttocks and genitals.

"It was squeezing, touching and rubbing," he told prosecutor Clare Jennings.

On one occasion, the witness was sitting in the church common room with other youths when Jacobs took him to a separate room, he testified.

"What happened when you entered the other room?" Jennings asked.

"He touched my genitals," the young man said.

It was skin-to-skin contact, he testified. Jacobs had one hand down the witness's pants and the other near his collarbone.

"How did you feel at that time?" Jennings asked.

"Scared," he replied.

This kind of sexual touching happened less than 12 times, he testified.

On another occasion, the witness was moving Bibles from the church to the school and found himself alone in a back room with Jacobs, he testified.

"He put his hand down the front of my pants and touched my genitals and then took my hand and put it down the front of his pants."

Jennings asked if Jacobs said anything to him at the time.

"He told me it was OK," he testified.

Jacobs was not aroused, he told Jennings.

This kind of sexual touching was repeated on other occasions, but the witness could not say how many.

The witness testified that he didn't tell anyone what had happened until 2009 when he confided in a girlfriend. The witness sought help at the Men's Trauma Centre in Victoria, then gave a statement to Saanich police Sgt. Rob Warren.

During cross-examination, Jacobs's defence lawyer, Chris Considine, suggested the witness's story was untrue. Considine pointed to parish documents that indicate the witness would not have been in the church with Jacobs until he was in Grade 6.

Considine suggested that if any touching took place, it would have occurred over a period of a few months, not two years. The witness repeatedly replied that the abuse took place when he was in Grades 6 and 7.

Considine showed the witness his statement to police, in which he said he could tell Jacobs was sexually aroused.

"You told an untruth," Considine said.

"Yes," he replied, saying that he was confused and scared when he made the statement.

"In fact, you were never abused by Phil Jacobs, were you?" Considine asked.

"Yes, I was," he said. ldickson@timescolonist.com

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