Christian Brother jailed for at least two years for indecently assaulting boys in NSW schools

Bail revoked for Christian Brother who sexually assaulted NSW boys

ABC News, Australia/November 26, 2014

By Jamelle Wells

A Christian Brother has been jailed for at least two years for indecently assaulting boys in New South Wales schools.

Desmond Richards, also known as brother Neil, was arrested after returning to Australia from the Vatican in 2013.

The 76-year-old previously taught at schools run by the Christian Brothers Catholic order across NSW.

District Court judge Peter Zahra sentenced him to at least two years' jail for indecently assaulting four boys aged between 11 and 13 in the 1970s and 1980s.

The court heard the offences were committed at schools in Albury, Wagga Wagga and Sydney and at a school camp near Sydney.

Richards unlikely to reoffend: court told

Judge Zahra said Richards took advantage of the power he could assert as a teacher, but is now a frail 76-year-old who is unlikely to reoffend.

The court heard the victims were vulnerable or problem students.

The judge said the parents of one victim did not believe him when he reported the abuse and another victim banged on a dormitory wall during a school camp in Sydney to warn other students Richards was approaching.

He said Richards was charged with similar offences at a school camp at Katoomba early in his teaching career but the charge was withdrawn.

The court heard he was put on a good behaviour bond for another similar offence in Gosford.

The judge noted that the allegations against Richards were first reported to the church more than a decade before police were contacted.

He said in the later part of his career the offender was put in non-teaching roles after receiving psychiatric treatment organised by the church.

Judge Zahra said doctors reports suggest Richards - who lives in a retirement village - has memory loss problems due to "cerebral deterioration" and has been treated for anxiety and depression.

But children were entitled to grow up free from the threat of sexual assault, the judge said.

"The offender took advantage of the power he could assert as a teacher," Judge Zahra said.

He described the offences as a "breach of trust" and said Richards punished his victims physically to ensure their silence.

Judge Zahra said children should have been safe in the company of the offender and referred to the psychological trauma his victims have suffered.

The court heard Richards is on a child sexual assault register but the judge found he has good prospects of rehabilitation.

'Burn in hell' says victim

As Richards was led away by court officers, one of his victims in the public gallery shouted that there were "hundreds of other victims" and told Richards to "burn in hell".

The man then ran out through a court fire door setting off an alarm.

Outside court, Richard's lawyer Greg Walsh said his client has serious health problems and will find jail difficult.

But he said there would be no appeal.

"They're very difficult proceedings these .. they give rise to a lot of emotional angst, " he said.

He said his client posed no danger to the community.

"As the judge said he hasn't re-offended since 1982."

Richards will be eligible for parole in 2016.

Christian Brothers apologise

The Christian Brothers Oceania order has issued a statement saying it "deeply regrets" the crimes committed by Richards.

"To those who continue to suffer the consequences of the actions of Brother Neil Richards we apologise without reservation," said Brother Peter Clinch.

"These children were entitled to care, protection and safety yet they were tragically betrayed.

"We are committed to continuing to work with victims with care and compassion so that they can find some healing in their lives.

"To them I reiterate our enduring and humble apology for what has occurred.

"For any person who has suffered past abuse, they are encouraged to contact our Professional Standards Office in Melbourne for support, advice and care.

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