A CHRISTIAN Brother will spend at least the next four and a half years in jail following his sentencing on child indecent assault charges on Friday.
Brother William Peter Standen, 67, nodded and bowed his head in Sydney District Court as Judge Anthony Blackmore handed down a nine-year, two-month custodial term. He set a non-parole period of four years, seven months, meaning his earliest release date will be September 28, 2020.
The sentence sparked mixed reaction in some of the 18 victims who were at the court.
“I’m a bit guttered; I felt he deserved more,” one man told the Post.
For another, it was a relief.
“I feel like that weight is off my shoulders and I can laugh again,” he said. (See separate story).
Standen faced 17 charges of indecent assault on boys aged 12 to 14 while he was a teacher and dormitory master at St Patrick’s College, Goulburn from 1978 to 1981. He was also charged with one count of indecent act on a child.
“These children were in Year Seven. They were vulnerable,” Judge Blackmore said.
He described them as “deplorable” acts that had left enduring psychological scars on the victims, many of whom were too scared to tell their parents or authorities.
A sentencing hearing in April heard that victims had since suffered depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, suicidal thoughts, drug and alcohol addiction, relationship breakdowns and anger management issues.
Goulburn detectives in Strike Force Charish arrested and charged Standen in August, 2014 as he arrived back in Australia from missionary work in Timor.
He pleaded not guilty to an initial set of charges, which expanded as more victims came forward.
In March he changed his plea to guilty and has been in jail since. Judge Blackmore said the plea entitled him to a discount on sentencing. However he pointed out that Standen, although “remorseful,” still characterised the offences as discipline.
“That is difficult to accept given the facts outlined,” he said.
The Brother was accused of taking boys into his rooms under the guise of extra tuition or punishment and abusing them.
Court documents detailed instances of smacking and strapping boys’ backsides either exposed or through pyjama pants while they were lying over his knee or bending down.
On other occasions he pulled underpants between boys’ buttocks, to the extent they were falling “forward.” He was also accused of fondling boys’ genitals, one of them after crawling into his tent on a holiday camp, and of masturbating himself while some of the abuse occurred. Often he would rub cream or oil into the victims’ buttocks afterwards.
Judge Blackmore detailed each of the 18 offences in court. He said this was necessary to highlight their seriousness.
“The offences were committed on young boys who were isolated, away from home, vulnerable and at times homesick," he said.
"Some were experiencing separation anxiety and he used this as a basis to take them to his room. He was in a position of trust and he completely abused that.
"It is a breach of trust of the highest order in my view."
Judge Blackmore said this was a serious aggravating factor and he did not accept that the abuse sat within the range of school discipline at the time.
“If the offender believes that then he needs to consider his conduct. It was wrong on every level,” he said.
The Judge told the court that reading and hearing victim impact statements had been a difficult exercise and nobody could help but be affected.
Standen was only a young man when he joined the Christian Brothers. The offences occurred when he was aged 30 to thirty-two. While he might not have received the necessary “guidance” to recognise the abuse’s seriousness at the time, as the years went on he should have realised the scars it left on children, the Judge said.
“He only admitted guilt when confronted with the evidence,” he said.
In the interim, Standen had pursued a very successful career after he left St Pat’s in the 1980s. He was later “lauded” as a principal of St Mary’s College, Sydney and went on to do volunteer missionary work in Timor after retiring in 2010.
During that time he had access to children but there was no reported evidence of re-offence. Judge Blackmore accepted a pre-sentence report’s finding that Standen was at low risk of re-offending, testimonials that he was of “good character” and that he had no prior criminal record.
Nevertheless he said general deterrence and reformation were necessary. He rejected case law that considered the passage of time in sentencing.
Judge Blackmore imposed separate sentences on each count, ranging from eight to 27 months. He said he must consider “total criminality.”
“He is an older man and he will undoubtedly find prison difficult,” he said.
Earlier, the judge told the court that the children were not responsible for the abuse.
“He (Standen) was,” Judge Blackmore said.
“The victims can now, if they wish, freely discuss what has been weighing on their psyche for many year,” he said.
Members of Standen’s family attended the court, along with several Christian Brothers.
Outside proceedings, Standen’s solicitor Greg Walsh said his client had been “doing it tough in jail”.
"(But) I thought the judge got it right. He put a lot of effort into and thought into the judgement."
Suppression orders are imposed on the victims’ names. An earlier suppression order on the school’s name, requested by Mr Walsh, was lifted on Friday.
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