Parents Angry As Abusing Teacher Gets Only 10 Years for Sexual Abuse

By Amanda Gearing and Jamie Walker
The Australian
October 5, 2010

A former Toowoomba Catholic school teacher and child protection officer has been jailed for 10 years for raping and sexual assaulting girls.

Gerard Vincent Byrnes, 61, was impassive in the dock when sentenced yesterday on 44 child-sex offences but he will spend less than half the time behind bars sought by prosecutors.

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

He has already served nearly two years in pre-sentence custody, so the former teacher could be freed in 2016.

One of the parents of the 13 girls he abused said the sentence was sickening, and another shouted at him: "We'll be waiting."

Byrnes had worked in Catholic schools in NSW and Queensland since 1970 as both teacher and principal.

Sentencing him, judge Sarah Bradley said his abuse of girls aged nine and 10 during 2007 and 2008 was a gross breach of trust by a teacher who was also supposed to be the school's child protection officer.

Justice Bradley said Byrnes's crimes had devastating consequences for some of his victims.

Many of the offences occurred after a complaint was made to the school, but not acted on because his denial was believed.

Byrnes's abuse of girls continued and increased.

Justice Bradley said he had tried to find the child who had reported him. He subsequently stopped abusing the girl he mistakenly suspected of blowing the whistle, but the girl who had actually reported him continued to be victimised, along with other classmates.

Justice Bradley said the children had felt powerless after the initial complaint was ignored.Most of the sex abuse happened during class time. The attacks on one child, involving digital rape, took place daily.

Byrnes told the girls not to report him because they would get into trouble, along with him.

After he was apprehended by police, Byrnes admitted to six of 10 rape charges and made admissions to all other counts.

The prosecution sought a head sentence of 18-20 years' jail for the serious and brazen offending, less a discount for Byrnes's admissions.


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