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Australian Court Dismisses Rape Allegations Against Governor-General - 2003-05-23

A court in Australia has dismissed rape allegations against the country's nominal head of state, Governor-General Peter Hollingworth. He was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at a church youth camp in the southern state of Victoria 40 years ago.

Peter Hollingworth stepped aside from his position as the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth when the rape allegations were made earlier this month. A 57-year-old woman, who committed suicide in April, brought the civil case against him. The Victorian Supreme Court in Melbourne dropped the case after the woman's family withdrew the lawsuit.

Rosemarie Anne Jarmyn claimed Mr. Hollingworth raped her at an Anglican Church youth camp in the mid-1960s. Her lawyers applied this month to extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting the crime, which is now six years.

Mr. Hollingworth has strongly denied the rape allegation, insisting he was the victim of mistaken identity and he had never met his accuser.

On national television on Friday, Australia's Governor-General again denied any wrongdoing. "Now that the court has dismissed the claims, I can do no more than swear my innocence under God just as I would have before the court under oath had the case proceeded. Now I am able to give proper consideration to my longer-term tenure as Governor-General," he said.

There are those who are determined to see the Governor-General resign.

In addition to the rape charge, Mr. Hollingworth came under fire this month after a report by Australia's Anglican Church said he ignored accusations of child abuse when he was archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s. The report says he allowed a known pedophile, now in jail, to continue working as a priest.

Opposition politician Senator John Faulkner has renewed his call for Mr. Hollingworth to quit over his handling of child sex abuse allegations. "Now that that [rape] matter is resolved, I think it is time for the Governor-General to step down. There is no alternative but for the Governor-General to go," he said.

Mr. Hollingworth's post is mostly ceremonial, but according to Australia's constitution, it is potentially powerful. Although the country has been independent for more than 100 years, it has retained the British monarchy as its head of state.