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Marist brother jailed for abusing students

AAP logoAAP 23/09/2016 Andi Yu

Male students accustomed to Brother Dominic's abuse would tighten their belts, barricade their desks and even meet before class to discuss how to avoid him reaching under their clothes.

"Bums to the wall, Dom's on the crawl" was a well-known catch phrase among students at one of his schools.

The 78-year-old Marist brother and former school teacher was on Friday jailed for at least three years after pleading guilty to a string of child sex offences involving 12 victims at NSW Catholic secondary schools between 1971 and 1983.

Sydney District Court judge Kate Traill stressed that she was required to sentence according to laws at the time, which were more lenient towards sex offenders.

She quoted a High Court judge in saying she was allowed to "suggest that the law is wrong and that it should be changed" but remained bound by it.

The maximum penalty for indecent assault offences today compared to the 1970s and 80s has almost doubled, she said.

The court heard that at Marist Brothers Hamilton, in Newcastle, where O'Sullivan taught between 1971 and 1977, he had a habit of putting his hands down boys' pants in full view of other students.

Ms Traill read out multiple accounts of O'Sullivan using the pretence of tucking a boy's shirt in to reach down their pants and rub their buttocks.

At St Mary's High School, Casino, where O'Sullivan became principal in the 1980s, students sent to his office for punishment would have to endure molestation on his lap as well as the strap.

The boys all came from staunchly Catholic families and felt they would not be believed if they disclosed what was happening, the court heard.

One student told his mother that Brother Dominic inappropriately touched him when he was sent to his office for bad behaviour, but she replied: "You should not be sent to his office in the first place. It's your fault".

Multiple victims made statements to the court describing years of depression, financial hardship, alcoholism, drug use, broken relationships and suicide attempts as a result of O'Sullivan's behaviour.

The judge said she found little evidence of remorse in O'Sullivan, made clear by his late guilty plea, which he entered in March this year despite the first charges being laid in 2013.

The Marist Brothers Province of Australia issued an apology on Friday, saying it recognised the impact of O'Sullivan's crimes on his victims, their families and the wider community and it would work to bring "some healing to lives that have been so damaged".

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

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