MARIST Brother and convicted child sex offender William Wade has made history as the first senior Catholic in Australia, and possibly only the third in the world, to plead guilty to concealing the child sex crimes of Catholic colleagues.
The former principal of five Marist high schools, including the flagship Ashgrove school in Queensland, entered guilty pleas today to two counts of failing to provide information to Strike Force Georgiana police in 2014 during child sex investigations into Marist Brothers Francis Cable and Darcy O'Sullivan.
The two counts of concealing serious offences are the first successful outcome from one of the controversial Section 316 of the Crimes Act cases, where an offence is committed if someone " knows or believes that a serious crime has been committed, and fails, without a reasonable excuse, to inform the police".
It is believed to be the first conceal case against the member of a religious order that has ended with guilty pleas, and one of only a handful of prosecutions in the world against Catholic Church leaders for failing to report child sex allegations to police or authorities.
The only such prosecutions in Australia have been in the Hunter region, including the conviction of Archbishop Philip Wilson for concealing the child sex crimes of child sex offender priest Jim Fletcher in 2018, that was overturned on appeal.
Wade entered the guilty pleas in Sydney District Court today before Judge Christopher O'Brien, who set a sentence date and advised the court he had been a student where Wade was principal.
Francis Cable (Brother Romuald) and O'Sullivan (Brother Dominic) are serving jail terms for serious child sex crimes against multiple boys at the Hamilton Marist school in the 1970s and 1980s.
Wade, who was principal of the Hamilton school between 1971 and 1976, was convicted of child sex offences in 2017 and served a jail sentence after an unsuccessful appeal.
During evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2016 Wade said he received only one complaint about Brother Romuald while principal at the Marist Hamilton school, and none against Brothers Dominic and Patrick.
He told the royal commission he knew his evidence conflicted with the evidence of others, who said they reported child sex allegations about the three Marist brothers to Wade. He told the commission he did not doubt most of the abuse against multiple boys happened, but he could not recall any of the details.
Wade told the royal commission he could not recall ever referring any complaints about Marist Brothers staff to the order's provincial.
Wade said he accepted Romuald's denial in the 1970s after a child sex complaint, after Romuald said: "I thought I had been good in that area recently."
Royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan challenged Wade on whether a single complaint of child sex against a Marist colleague would have stood out.
Justice McClellan put to Wade that he was wrong to accept Romuald's denial, which had "terrible consequences".
Wade said he carried "a great deal of grief and regret and sorrow about it".
"I should have at least informed the provincial (the head of the order) and possibly gone to the police," Wade told the royal commission in 2016.
Wade said he also could not recall going to the Hamilton home of Andrew Nash, a Hamilton Marist school student, on the night Andrew, 13, took his own life in October, 1974 while a student of Brother Romuald.
Asked by barrister Hilbert Chiu, representing the Nash family, why he could not remember, Wade told the royal commission: "I'm not saying I didn't do it. I've struggled to, I've struggled to picture myself in the context. I've struggled to picture myself having gone to the home in the company of the people that I read about in the evidence, who say that they were there with me and I simply can't picture or recollect or recall."
Mr Chiu accused Wade of "pretending you don't remember that evening because you're a coward and you're a liar."
"That's not true," Wade told the royal commission.
The head of the Marist order, Brother Peter Carroll, apologised to the Nash family at the end of the royal commission hearing after agreeing that "all the evidence" indicated Andrew Nash had been sexually abused.
Brother Carroll told the royal commission the order had failed to do anything about the sex crimes and excessive violence of many of its Brothers.
Two American bishops are believed to be the only other senior Catholics in the world to enter guilty pleas to concealing child sex crimes of priests or Catholic colleagues.
High profile conceal cases against French Catholic clerics, including a cardinal, in the past two years have been either acquitted, or overturned on appeal.
Wade will be sentenced at a later date.