William Wade, the first senior Catholic in Australia to plead guilty to concealing the child sex crimes of Catholic colleagues, will not spend any time in jail for his crimes.
In a judgement that angered sexual abuse victims, the former principal of Marist Brothers Hamilton will serve a four month jail sentence as a community corrections order.
Andrew Nash was 13 when he took his own life at the family's Hamilton home in 1974 after he was abused by one of Wade's colleagues, Brother Romuald.
His brother, Geoffrey, and mother 94-year-old Audrey, hope Wade will finally apologise for the impact of his inaction.
"When he was at Marist Brothers in 1974 he was in direct command of the paedophiles who were responsible for my brother's death; he needs to apologise to my mother before she dies," Geoffrey Nash said following Wade's sentence in Sydney District Court.
"Brother Christopher, you pleaded guilty, you got a very lenient sentence. The right thing to do now is apologise to Audrey Nash for your professional failings that led to the death of her son."
Wade, 84, was principal of Marist Brothers Hamilton between 1971 and 1976.
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to failing to provide information to police in 2014 during child abuse investigations into Darcy O'Sullivan, known as Brother Dominic, and Francis Cable, known as Brother Romuald, when they were at the school.
The 'reign of terror' and cover-ups that he presided over unleashed a trail of human tragedy that continues to unfold 50 years later.
Geoffrey Nash was among several victims who spoke of their dissatisfaction at Wade's sentence.
"He has pleaded guilty to concealing and part of the collateral damage of that concealing is dead children in his care" he said.
"Myself and my friends know many boys who are dead. The most recent guy from my class took his life three years ago, two weeks before Brother Dominic's trial.
"The suicides go from 1974 up until a couple of years ago. That is the criminal legacy of Brother Christopher Wade and the Marist Brothers' reign of terror at Hamilton. The place was a hell hole."
Another said he was hopeful Wade would have spent at least some time in jail.
"I would have been happy with any jail sentence; he did get sentenced to four months albeit as community service," he said.
"It angers me that he can be healthy enough to do community service but not go to jail.
"I understand he can only be sentenced for the law as it was in 1976. The time that has passed has protected him in the eyes of the law. Even though it's totally inadequate, that's the law unfortunately."
Victims and their supporters acknowledged the determination and support of Strike Force Georgiana detectives led by Sergeant Kristi Faber.
Several said the detectives' support had given them the courage to face demons that had followed them for decades.
Acting Judge Michael Adams said despite Wade's grave moral failure to act on the numerous complaints when he had the chance, he could only be sentenced for failing to disclose his knowledge of what he knew when interviewed by police.
"It is obvious that, had the offender done his duty by the students for whom he was responsible at the time they made their complaints, the further sexual abuse of them and other victims may well have been prevented," Justice Adams said.
"His inaction and silence thus contributed to terrible consequences. However, it must be emphasised that he cannot now be punished for what he omitted to do at that time."
Wade was jailed for at least 18 months in 2017 after being found 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.
A former principal of five Marist schools, including Ashgrove school in Queensland and Marist schools at Kogarah, Randwick and Canberra, he is believed to be the first conceal case against a senior 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.
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.
Although he pleaded guilty to the concealment offences, Wade he repeated the assertion that he had no recollection of abuse complaints being made to him.
Justice Adams said he struggled to understand Wade's inaction.
"Although I accept that sexual abuse of the kind reported to the offender was, at that time, not regarded with the seriousness that was appropriate, I do not accept that, in his position as headmaster, the offender would not have realised that the complaints were of serious misconduct involving, by any standards, the gross misuse by the Brothers of their positions as teachers," Justice Adams said.
" It may be that he was unsure as to what he should have done but I do not accept that he actually thought it might be appropriate to do nothing (with the possible exception of expostulating on one occasion), even if he was uncertain about what exactly he should do."
Several references from former students and colleagues were tendered to the court attesting to Wade's good character.
In a letter tendered to the court Wade said he wished, "to express my sincere remorse to the victims of child sexual abuse, and for the offences ... which I have committed".
Among other things, he said he understood that, had he reported crimes that had become known to him 50 years ago, further criminal activity might have been lessened or avoided and individuals who were harmed could have been spared the pain and suffering they endured.
"I have a great deal of remorse and regret on this score. If I had my time again, I would unhesitatingly report any suspicions of such criminal conduct that came to my notice. For my dereliction of duty in this regard I humbly and sincerely apologise to the victims and their families," the letter stated.
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