A monk accused of sexually abusing children at a Catholic school in the Highlands could soon face trial in Scotland.
Father Denis Alexander, 83, has been facing extradition from Australia since the allegations against him and other monks who worked at the Fort Augustus boarding school came to light several years ago.
A Crown Office spokeswoman confirmed that a decision has been taken by the Australian Government that he should be surrendered for trial in Scotland.
He has however applied for a judicial review.
Father Alexander denies the claims and has been contesting his extradition back to Scotland on the grounds of ill health.
The allegations of child abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey were made in a BBC documentary six years ago years ago.
The monk was arrested in Sydney 2017 and is fighting the Australian attorney general’s decision to surrender him for extradition.
A Crown Office spokesman said extradition proceedings were “ongoing”.
Father Alexander was one of a number of monks accused of child sex abuse and cover-up in a 2013 BBC documentary, Sins of Our Fathers.
He taught at the Benedictine Fort Augustus Abbey during the 1960s and 70s, but was returned to Australia by the Catholic Church in 1979 after allegations of abuse were made.
The Church apparently made no report to the police and no warnings were provided about his alleged offending behaviour to the Catholic Church in Australia, where Father Alexander continued his work as a priest for a further two decades.
Now that Australia’s most senior lawyer has decided he is eligible for surrender, the former monk’s last legal recourse to prevent this is to seek a judicial review of the decision.
This is now in the hands of the Federal Court of Australia, and the decision could take months.
Hugh Kennedy, 56, a former Fort Augustus pupil and one of Father Alexander’s accusers, told the BBC he welcomed the latest move, but added: “His legal team have tried every trick in the book to run the clock down.
“It hasn’t been helped by the delays in the Crown getting their act together in the early part of this process.
“I daren’t get my hopes up too much – but all I want is to have the allegations heard in a Scottish court, and him to be there to face them. I still don’t know if that will ever happen.”