Paedophile priest found guilty of sex, physical assaults at Salesian College

By Adam Cooper And Mark Russell
August 28, 2015

Julian Fox outside the Magistrates Court in 2013.
Photo by Angela Wylie

David Rapson was jailed in May for 12 years.
Photo by Justin McManus

The former Australian head of the Catholic Salesian order is in jail after he was found guilty of brutally sexually and physically assaulting boys at Victorian schools more than 30 years ago, it can now be revealed.

Only now can media report the cruel and devastating offending of Julian Benedict Fox, the former head of the Salesians in Australia, and a past teacher at notorious Salesian College Rupertswood in Sunbury, who was in the past year convicted in two separate County Court trials of assaulting two boys, in 1980 and 1984.

In custody since September, Fox, 70, also pleaded guilty on Friday to three counts of common assault, related to beating three other boys with a pool cue at Salesian College in 1978 and 1979.

A suppression order had prevented media from reporting the convictions, but that order was revoked on Friday by judge Graeme Hicks.

Fox was found guilty of a combined three counts of indecent assault by juries in two of the eight trials he faced between September last year and July. He was found not guilty in two trials, while four juries were discharged without verdict.

Judge Hicks jailed Fox – one of a group of paedophile priests who preyed on boys at Salesian College – for four years. He must serve two years and eight months before he is eligible for parole.

Judge Hicks said Fox's offending represented a power imbalance and gross breach of trust, as he was a teacher and member of the clergy.

"The victim impact statements are powerful testimony to the injury, both physical and mental, that you have caused your victims," the judge said.

"You have caused a great deal of human damage and misery." 

Fox was the prefect of studies at Rupertswood when he slammed a pool cue into the backside of a 14-year-old boy in 1980, and asked, "is that hard enough?".

In 1984, when he was principal at St Joseph's College in Ferntree Gully, he twice indecently assaulted a boy, also 14, including one occasion when another priest was in the room. Both boys had been sent to Fox to be punished.

Fox is the latest former Rupertswood teacher to be jailed for sexually assaulting children.

Frank Klep, 70, a former principal, was jailed for 10½ years in May 2014 after pleading guilty to abusing 15 children while running the college's infirmary between 1974 and 1983.

David Rapson, 61, a former vice-principal, was jailed in May for 12 years after being found guilty of sexually assaulting six boys between 1976 and 1990.

One victim claimed Rapson was abusing boys when Klep told him to resist the temptation. Rapson replied: "God made us this way and it's his fault. You're one to talk, you're the same as me."

Prosecutor Andrew McKenry​ told a pre-sentence hearing on August 6 that Fox's sexual abuse against two vulnerable boys had been a breach of trust and caused lifelong harm.

The court heard the former St Joseph's student was gripped by depression, had attempted suicide six times and felt haunted by Fox, who "stole my childhood and innocence".

The man's wife said she lived in constant fear of finding her husband hanging from a tree on their property, and estimated the suffering had cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in work that could not be done and long-term medical costs.

The former Rupertswood student said he abused alcohol as an adult, endured a marriage breakdown and engaged in "anti-social behaviour". 

He said in a victim impact statement his initial excitement at attending the boarding school was marred by the horrible acts of violence he witnessed against students.

Fox pleaded guilty on Friday to beating three boys, aged 13 and 14, at Rupertswood with a pool cue. He beat two in 1978 because they were talking after lights-out, and beat another boy in 1979 because he allegedly swore.

Defence counsel Julie Condon told the court on August 6 Fox was still a priest and had the support of the Salesians, but was now likely to be defrocked.

Fox, the head of the Salesians in Australia from 1988 to 1993, was moved by the order to Fiji in 1999 after allegations of sexual abuse were made against him by former students. He was then moved to the order's headquarters in Rome, but was banned from having contact with children.

He returned from Rome in 2013 to face the sex abuse charges. 

Fox, formerly of Ascot Vale, has spent 351 days in custody since he was found guilty by the first jury.

Bernard Barrett, of support group Broken Rites, welcomed the jail term. 

"This sentence will please the victims and all church victims, many of whom have remained silent all three years because they've been intimidated into silence," he said outside court.

"But now people generally have the courage to come forward in cases like this, so it's a good example for others."

Salesian College and St Josephs College said in statements they welcomed the convictions against Fox, and acknowledged the victims' suffering, although they did not offer formal apologies.

The schools said they had removed all references to Fox from within their walls.


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