A VICTIM of serial paedophile Vince Ryan has given shocking evidence to the Royal Commission about Ryan’s repeated sexual predations against him and other altar boys while at primary school.
Scott Marcus Hallett 51, told of his upbringing as the adopted child of a 14-year-old mother, and his education at St Joseph’s primary school at The Junction.
Frequently breaking down in tears and having to stop to compose himself, Mr Hallett told of how Ryan began abusing him as an altar boy, and how it began as masturbation and moved soon to anal sex in a group with various boys.
He was just nine years old.
“At the time I didn’t know what Father Ryan was doing was wrong,” Mr Hallett said.
“I was a young boy. I knew nothing about sex. To me it was just a game and we were just having fun. At some point, I think near the end of 1975, I discussed the incidents with the other boys and from altar boy practice and we agreed to tell our parents about what Father Ryan had been doing to us.”
He said he told a favoured teacher, Mr Hallinan, who told the principal, Sister Margaret Anne, who told Mr Hallinan to “stop asking me about what happened”.
He said in 1976 he told his sixth class teacher, Sister Ursula, about Ryan, but she called me a liar and told me not to make up stories about people.
He said he became angry about the church and what had happened to him and began stealing money from poor boxes and the petty cash tin. In revenge, he broke into the school and defecated the school piano.
In 1977 he started high school at Marist Brothers Hamilton and ran into Ryan again, and at one stage wanted to push him down the stairs to kill him.
He had no problems with abuse at Marist Brothers although one brother forced his tongue into his mouth for about 10 minutes one weekend night on a school camp while he pretended to be asleep.
As an adult, he found it hard to keep jobs and although he had done well academically and was able to handle work, he would have disagreements with higher management and “get restless”.
In 1995, he ran into Gerard McDonald, another boy abused with him by Ryan, and then after talking about what happened he went home and told his wife and then spoke to the police.
After more victims came forward, Ryan was charged and convicted to 14 years for the sexual abuse of 33 boys, which he said was less than five months for each victim.
He obtained $360,000 in compensation from the church, and spoke of his disgust at Bishop Malone, who in meeting him held his hand out for Mr Hallett to kiss it.
Questioned later by Simon Harben, counsel for the bishop, Mr Hallett insisted he was not mistaken about this, and that Bishop Malone had not been simply putting his hand out for a handshake.
Mr Hallett talked about a suicide attempt in late 1995 and early 1996 and about how thoughts of suicide still haunt him.
He said he and Mr McDonald spoke to each other every second day and support each other.
“I am still very shy and don’t feel comfortable talking about the abuse,” Mr Hallett said.
“But I have got to the stage now where I just think: ‘You have just got to get the word out there so people can be aware of what can happen and make people more vigilant about protecting the kids.’
“If I can help people understand that if a child says something that’s not quite right, ask a question. Just ask that question. Usually there is a window of opportunity during the grooming stage where we can act before the point of no return.
“Once a child is broken, they can’t be fixed.”
Outside the commission, Mr Hallett said he believed the church was yet to properly apologise for its wrongs.
Earlier, a previous Marist Brothers provincial, Brother Michael Hill, resumed giving evidence about one of his religious, Brother Patrick Butler.
Brother Michael was taken to a 2001 complaint by an Ashgrove student against Brother Patrick.
The boy, code-named CNI, had complained that Brother Patrick in a study session had stroked him and then placed his hand on the boy’s gown.
The commission heard that Brother Patrick was charged soon after by Queensland police of one count of sexual assault and that a Marist Brothers protocol had been put in place.
In that, pastoral care was offered to the complainant, the order withdrew from any involvement in the charging process, the accused brother was referred to independent legal advice and the order co-operated with any police request for information.
The commission heard before the morning break that restrictions had been placed on Brother Patrick by the order in 1992.
He had been sent to a course in the United States in 1997 and was not supposed to be in unsupervised contact with children.
He was then taken to correspondence from Queensland police in April 2001 in which he was asked to check Marist archives for “any history or circumstances which may suggest that the brother has acted in any inappropriate manner with any child during his extensive teaching career”.
He said he remembered receiving the request and said it was dealt with by lawyers.
He was then shown a letter he wrote to the police later that month that said he had checked the archives and found there was “a note indicating that he was the subject of a complaint brought to the attention of my predecessor in 1993 [and] the allegation referred to the 1970s”.
But Brother Michael said he made the police officer aware that “there were several complaints” about Brother Patrick”.
He was then taken to a letter from Brother Patrick’s lawyer, Pat Mullins, which said Brother Michael had “caused a search to be done of the records of the province and that those records reveal that Brother Patrick Butler has never been charged with any criminal offence”.
Asked whether he understood the police were looking for any complaints, and not only criminal charges, Brother Michael said the police interest had started off as a “very, very broad request” that had been narrowed down.
Asked if he provided information including file notes from the Marist archives to the police, Brother Michael said he “provided it verbally”.
Hilbert Chiu, representing some of the victims of the Marist brothers Dominic, Romuald and Patrick, then questioned Brother Michael about a letter he wrote to Bishop Michael Malone in 1996.
It said: “For your own peace of mind, I can assure you that, after thorough investigation, it would seem that aspects of the behaviour of Brother Patrick were certainly injudicious and inappropriate but not criminal behaviour.”
Bishop Malone had written to Brother Michael saying: “It was common knowledge among the kids that both brothers had acted inappropriately”.
At this point, the chair of the commission, Justice Peter McClellan, intervened, asking why he was giving the bishop peace of mind when he knew of various allegations against Brother Patrick.
Brother Michael said that by this stage Brother Patrick had been “removed from unsupervised contact with children, [or] so I thought” , although he agreed with Justice McClellan that what he had told the bishop was “naive”.
He also said that the matters of Brother Patrick and Brother Romuald were “in a sense, side issues” because the main thrust of the exchange of the letters with the bishop were about the appointment of Brother Dominic as principal at Hamilton.
Justice McClellan said to Brother Michael that Brother Patrick had been “up to no good, wasn’t he?”
“And he was also being removed from all unsupervised contact with students at that stage,” Brother Michael said.
“But he had been up to no good, hadn’t he?”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.