May 31, 2019
By Joanne McCarthy
THE sadistic Hunter Catholic priest whose crimes against children were the catalyst for a royal commission will spend longer in jail after he was convicted of sexually abusing a 59th victim.
John Sidney Denham, 76, left a young boy bleeding and sobbing after dragging him from a Taree Catholic primary school playground to a nearby presbytery and violently sexually assaulting him in the early 1980s.
Denham then silenced the terrified, traumatised boy, 11, with a warning that: “If you tell anyone, anyone at all, you’ll be taken away from your parents, your parents will be thrown out of the church, you will go to hell and maybe be taken away from your parents forever and never see them again, and there will be more trouble.”
Denham denied the crimes during a judge-alone trial in 2018 and said he had no memory of the victim.
It was “an entirely cynical basis upon which to prosecute a defence”, said District Court Judge Phillip Mahony before finding Denham guilty of four offences, including buggery, and rejecting Denham’s claim of remorse.
Denham “has not recognised the pain and suffering caused to the victim of these offences at all”, said Judge Mahony in a decision on Thursday.
He sentenced Denham to a maximum 13 years jail, with a non-parole period of seven years and six months. But because the former Hunter priest is already in jail until at least January, 2028, and the crimes against his 59th victim occurred in the same period he committed other offences, he will spend at least another 18 months in jail for the latest convictions.
His earliest possible release date is July, 2029, with his full sentence not ending until January, 2035 when Denham is 92.
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