Red tape holds up paedophile hunt

IN THE DOCK: Bernard McGrath was sentenced in the High Court in Christchurch in 2006 for sexually abusing boys at Marylands School in the 1970s.
IN THE DOCK: Bernard McGrath was sentenced in the High Court in Christchurch in 2006 for sexually abusing boys at Marylands School in the 1970s.

Sri Lankan authorities have not yet started their search for convicted Christchurch paedophile Bernard Kevin McGrath, believed to be living on a Sri Lankan tea plantation while wanted on more than 250 child-sex offences in Australia, as bureaucracy continues to delay efforts to arrest him.

Fairfax Media this week revealed McGrath fled Christchurch for the Sri Lankan midlands in the winter, beating an Australian extradition request reportedly delayed for five months after he was charged.

Now, Sri Lankan police are waiting for formal notification that McGrath is a wanted man in Australia.

"So far, we have no information about him," Sri Lanka police spokesman Prishantha Jayakody said.

"The information ... would have to come through Interpol to the Criminal Investigation Department before we can take action."

Sri Lanka's department of immigration and emigration was unable to confirm whether McGrath, a former St John of God brother, had entered the country.

Sri Lanka's National Child Protection Agency has been tipped off that McGrath is living in the country and has asked the criminal investigation department for McGrath's passport number as well as requesting his details from the Australian High Commission.

However, the agency must await formal notification before it can seek to arrest McGrath.

"Even if we get information, we simply cannot take action against him without being informed by Interpol."

McGrath was jailed for two years in New Zealand for sexually abusing young boys. He was paroled in 2008.

On June 27 this year, a Newcastle court laid 252 abuse charges against him, dating back to the 1970s.

McGrath is alleged to have repeatedly raped, molested and abused dozens of young boys at church-run institutions in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese. It is understood several charges relate to McGrath's time as a brother at the notorious Kendall Grange College in Morissett, New South Wales.

McGrath faces 30 counts of homosexual intercourse with a male between the age of 10 and 18, 30 counts of homosexual intercourse between a teacher and a student aged between 10 and 18, and 102 charges of indecent assault.

NSW police were to seek McGrath's extradition to Australia from Christchurch where he was living. However, Fairfax learnt he was allowed to fly out of New Zealand after the charges were laid against him in Australia.

A New Zealand police source said the formal extradition request had only come from Interpol on November 15, nearly five months after the Australian charges were laid, and weeks after McGrath allegedly left the country.

McGrath's New Zealand brother, Clem McGrath, said he left the country in winter.

A friend had told him: "Why don't you come to Sri Lanka? You've got nothing here."

Sri Lanka is a known haven for paedophiles, particularly outside its major cities, and organised child-sex rings are known to operate across the country.

Australia does not have an extradition treaty with Sri Lanka but can extradite suspects under the London Scheme which allows for the transfer of accused persons between Commonwealth countries.

NSW Police and the Australian Federal Police declined to comment.

- Fairfax News Australia