Queensland to Appeal Child Sex Sentence

Sydney Morning Herald
October 22, 2010

The Queensland government will appeal a 10-year sentence given to a teacher found guilty of the rape and sexual abuse of students in his care at a Toowoomba school.

Gerard Vincent Byrnes, 61, pleaded guilty in April to 44 charges - 33 of indecent treatment of a child under 16, 10 counts of rape and one of maintaining an unlawful relationship with a child.

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

On October 4, The Toowoomba District Court sentenced him 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.

Having served nearly two years in pre-sentence custody, he could be released in 2016.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick on Friday announced he would appeal the sentence.

"Today, I have lodged an appeal in the Court of Appeal in Brisbane against the sentence imposed on Gerard Vincent Byrnes for the offences of rape, maintaining an unlawful sexual relationship, and indecent treatment of a child under the age of 16," Mr Dick said in a statement.

He said the grounds of the appeal were that the sentence failed to reflect the gravity of the offence, failed to act as a sufficient deterrence, and the sentencing judge gave too much weight to mitigating factors.

"I will not be making any further comment as the matter is now before the courts," Mr Dick said.

The opposition Liberal National Party (LNP) welcomed the appeal.

Shadow attorney-general Lawrence Springborg said the short sentence was a direct result of the Bligh government's weak sentencing laws.

"Dispensation of justice under the long-term Labor government is weak, flawed and out of step with community standards," he said in a statement.

"These sentences do not reflect either the seriousness of the crime nor expectations that serious and violent offenders be removed from being a further threat to the community."

A court date for the appeal is yet to be set.


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