Teacher Jailed for Molesting Students

By Christine Flatley
Sydney Morning Herald
October 4, 2010

A primary school teacher who raped and molested 13 students has been jailed for 10 years.

Gerard Vincent Byrnes, 61, pleaded guilty in April to 33 counts of indecent treatment of a child under 12, 10 counts of rape and one of maintaining a sexual relationship with a student.

The Toowoomba District Court was told the incidents occurred while he was the child protection officer at a Toowoomba school from January 2007 to November 2008.

The hearing was adjourned in April until Monday, when Judge Sarah Bradley sentenced Byrnes to 10 years' jail.

Under Queensland law a 10-year sentence carries with it an automatic serious violent offence declaration, meaning Byrnes must serve eight years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.

He has already served nearly two years in pre-sentence custody, meaning he could be released in 2016.

Queensland's deputy opposition leader, Lawrence Springborg, said in a written statement that the sentence was `manifestly inadequate', and called on Attorney-General Cameron Dick to appeal.

"This man is a serial sex offender, one of the worst of the worst, who preyed on students under his care," Mr Springborg said.

"The fact he will serve less than three months behind bars for each offence he committed, and less than a year for each victim he abused is an indictment of the justice system under this long term Labor Government.

"This sentence is clearly out of step with community expectations and the attorney-general must appeal."

Toowoomba Bishop William Morris on Monday issued a written statement apologising to the victims and their families.

"I can only begin to imagine the suffering the victims and their families have experienced as a result of this former teacher's gross breach of trust and abhorrent actions," he said.

He said that former High Court Justice Ian Callinan, QC, would act as an independent mediator to help pursue civil claims brought on behalf of the affected children.

He said the Catholic Education Office would continue to improve school child protection policies, procedures and training, in cooperation with the regulatory authorities.

"Unfortunately, I cannot change what has happened," he said.

"However, I remain committed to doing everything in my power to ensure events such as these never happen again."


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