Senior Catholic William Wade sentenced for concealing child sex abuse at Marist schools

By Jamie Mckinnell
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
September 30, 2020

William Wade arrives at Sydney's Downing Centre court complex.
Photo by Jamie McKinnell

The first senior Catholic to plead guilty to concealing child sexual abuse in Australia has escaped jail despite a judge acknowledging his "reprehensible" inaction contributed to "terrible consequences".

William Wade admitted to failing to provide information to police during a 2014 investigation into abuse at Marist schools in the 1970s.

Wade's roles at Marist Brothers schools included headmaster in Canberra, at Hamilton, in Newcastle, and Kogarah, in Sydney alongside convicted child sex offenders Darcy O'Sullivan, known as Brother Dominic, and Francis Cable, known as Brother Romuald.

Wade, who was known as Brother Christopher, had previously been convicted and jailed for child sexual abuse.

The 84-year-old was charged under section 316 of the Crimes Act, which from 1990 made it an offence to conceal a serious indictable offence, punishable by up to two years in jail.

Acting Judge Michael Adams at Sydney's Downing Centre court on Wednesday said Wade must be sentenced on the basis of his criminality at the time of the charges — 2014 — rather than when the complaints were made.

He said Wade had a moral responsibility to his students and his employer.

"It seems obvious that had the offender done his duty by his students for whom he was responsible at the time they made their complaints, the further sexual abuse of other victims may have been prevented," the acting judge said.

"His inaction and silence thus contributed to terrible consequences."

He sentenced Wade to four months imprisonment, to be served in the community.

"His failure to take action, however reprehensible at the time, was not then a criminal offence, and he has not been charged with that failure," Acting Justice Adams said.

The court heard many students reported being abused by O'Sullivan and Cable to Wade in the 1970s, but he told one victim: "These things don't happen here, you can't make up stories like that."

When police spoke to Wade about O'Sullivan in April 2014, he said he was "completely shocked" and claimed to only recall one complaint about Cable.

During an earlier sentence hearing, one of Wade's former students described the abuse he suffered at Newcastle Marist Brothers College 45 years ago and how Wade did nothing when it was reported.

"I have been ashamed of myself most of my life," he told the court.

"What happened to me is never far from my thoughts."

In 2017, Wade was sentenced to 18 months in jail for abusing two boys — one at Hamilton in 1976 and another at Kogarah four years later.

One of his victims previously described Wade as "barbaric" and said he had a reputation as a very hard and cruel punisher.


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