ONE of the most notorious members of one of the most notorious Catholic orders in Australia will sit in the dock of a court on Friday to be called to account for multiple child sex offences – for the fourth time.
St John of God Brother Bernard McGrath was 18 when he joined the order in 1965 after his father – who once trained to be a Catholic priest – ordered him to, according to McGrath.
He will be jailed for the fourth time on Friday, aged 70, after a jury in November found him guilty of multiple serious child sex offences against multiple victims in the Hunter, including at the notorious St John of God Kendall Grange school for troubled boys at Morisset in the 1970s and 1980s.
McGrath did not deny the boys were sexually assaulted. He argued they were the victims of other offenders within the order, which the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found had the highest percentage of alleged or convicted offenders of any Catholic order.
While the average number of alleged offenders in the Catholic church was 7 per cent, the commission found 40 per cent of St John of God members were alleged child sex offenders.
Victims of McGrath and their families were distraught when the protracted McGrath case, which included him fighting extradition from New Zealand to face trial after more than 250 charges were laid against him in 2012, appeared to be a factor in the royal commission not holding a public hearing into the St John of God order.
During a trial in 2017 a jury heard harrowing evidence from boys who said they were repeatedly brutally raped by McGrath while at Kendall Grange.
The trial heard some boys told their parents but when McGrath was confronted he replied that “Kids make up stories”.
McGrath grew up in New Zealand, joined the order at 18 and told a court he was sexually abused by a senior member of the order in Sydney during training.
I didn’t do anything because I’d played up myself, you know, who what do you do? How do you go and challenge someone when you’ve committed these sins?- St John of God Brother Bernard McGrath
In 1974 he was sent to the notorious St John of God boarding school for boys, Marylands, outside Christchurch, where he alleged he witnessed the sexual assault of boys by at least one other Brother.
In a taped interview with New Zealand police McGrath said: “I didn’t do anything because I’d played up myself, you know, who what do you do? How do you go and challenge someone when you’ve committed these sins?”
He was sent to Kendall Grange in 1978 and sent back to New Zealand in 1986 to work with street kids. He was first convicted and jailed for child sex offences in New Zealand in 1993. While in jail some of his Australian victims reported his offending to police. He was released from jail in New Zealand and extradited to Australia in 1995 where he was convicted and jailed for nine months.
In 2002 victims from Marylands reported his offending to New Zealand police and McGrath was convicted again in 2006 and jailed for a maximum five years. He was released after serving nearly two years’ jail.
McGrath fought extradition to Australia after he was charged by Lake Macquarie Strike Force Lozano police in 2012. McGrath lost a High Court appeal in New Zealand and was extradited to Australia where he was found guilty of 60 offences in November, 2017.
His sentencing in the Sydney District Court on Friday is expected to take all day.
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