Ex-Marist Brothers headmaster loses appeal

An elderly former Marist Brothers headmaster is behind bars after losing an appeal against his convictions for sexually abusing two ill boys almost four decades ago.

William Wade, known as Brother Christopher, also lost his appeal against a jail term of 18 months, with a non-parole period of nine months, imposed by Judge David Arnott in November 2017.

The NSW District Court judge had found Wade guilty of one count of indecently assaulting a boy, aged 13 or 14, at Hamilton Marist school in 1976, and two counts of indecently assaulting a 13-year-old boy at Kogarah Marists in 1980.

The now 82-year-old was granted bail pending the outcome of his challenges which were dismissed by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal on Friday.

Justices Robert Allan Hulme, Monika Schmidt and Peter Hamill rejected submissions Wade had suffered a miscarriage of justice and that the judge’s verdicts were unreasonable.

Both complainants, who did not know each other, testified to being molested after they went to the then principal’s office after falling ill.

But Wade gave evidence denying their claims and said he had no sexual interest in the boys.

“Having concluded that the complainants were assaulted in the manner they described, it was well-open to the judge to be satisfied that it was the appellant who perpetrated the assaults,” Justice Hulme said.

“As the principal, the appellant was a significant person at each of the schools.

“Each of the complainants recalled going to his office because they were suffering from an incident of ill-health.”

The possibility details they gave were merged with a memory of an assault by someone else at the school was “most unlikely”, Justice Hulme said.

The judges also rejected a claim the sentence was manifestly excessive.

While the offending had been opportunistic the “abuse of trust and authority” which Wade then held as head of a religious school in whose care the victims had been entrusted was substantial.

The sentences were severe given Wade’s age, extensive delay and substantial increases in maximum penalties and sentencing patterns in the ensuing 40 years, Justice Hamill said.

“However, this was a case involving an egregious breach of trust by a headmaster charged with the responsibility for the pastoral care of the vulnerable young victims.”

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