A Christian Brother will spend at least 18 months in jail following his sentence on Thursday.
William John Obbens, 70, of Ryde pleaded guilty in May to three counts of aggravated indecent assault of three boys under his authority.
The offences occurred at the former St Patrick’s College, Goulburn, from 1987 to 1989. He was a teacher and dormitory master at the time.
Judge David Frearson convicted him on all three counts in Downing Centre District Court on Thursday. He sentenced him to an aggregate three years’ prison with a non-parole period of 18 months.
Obbens had been free on bail until Thursday’s appearance. He is yet to face two other charges brought by the Department of Public Prosecutions last month.
The Goulburn Post was not in court for the sooner than expected judgement.
Facts earlier tendered to Goulburn District Court stated that Obbens preyed on boarders’ homesickness to abuse the boys.
His victims were aged 12 and thirteen.
One didn’t tell his mother about the abuse until 2004, agreed facts stated.
Obbens had called the boarder into his office/bedroom one day in 1987 and disciplined him, though the student was not aware he had done anything wrong.
The Brother asked him about his homesickness, prompting the boy to cry.
“The offender walked beside him, put his arms around his chest in a bear hug and squeezed (the boy) against his body,” facts stated.
“(The boy) could feel (Obbens’) erect penis against his mid-back and could feel his face close to the back of his neck.”
The Brother kept squeezing him tighter, against his erection, before telling the boy he could ‘come to him anytime’ he was feeling homesick.
The victim claimed Obbens committed similar offences on him several times throughout the year. At the end of the school year he appealed to his parents to move him to another school, which they did.
Also in 1987, police alleged Obbens called a 13-year-old boy into his office/bedroom after school.
“They were talking and the offender stood behind (the boy), reached around and unzipped (the victim’s) trouser pants and fondled his penis over the top of his underpants,” agreed facts stated.
The incident lasted five to 10 minutes, during which Obbens was fully clothed.
The student ensured that he was never alone with Obbens again and he left the school at the end of that year.
Documents stated that it was not until 2004 that the former student made a formal complaint to the Catholic Church. He was offered paid counselling.
Homesickness had plagued another 13-year-old when Obbens called him into his office and strapped him across the hands for “bad behaviour” in 1989.
Obbens then hugged and pulled the boy toward him and pressed his groin into the victim’s lower-back.
Documents stated Obbens committed similar offences on the boy several more times.
That same year the boy and a school mate reported Obbens’ indecent assaults to police. He was charged over the school mate’s allegation, for which he was convicted in 1989 and given a two-year-good behaviour bond, antecedents showed.
The other boy did not wish to take the complaint further at that time, facts stated.
Obbens was due to stand trial on the five original charges in Goulburn in May.
However, on April 29 he offered, via email, to plead guilty on the three counts. Agreed facts were tendered to the court.
Obbens’ solicitor Greg Walsh told the court in May that a full-time custodial sentence was “inevitable” but successfully argued for bail.
Obbens is the second St Patrick’s College Christian Brother to face jail.
In June, Brother William Peter Standen, 67, was sentenced to nine years, two months with a non-parole period of four and a half years.
In August Judge Frearson acquitted Brother Christopher Rafferty, 65, on six historical sex charges.
Christian Brothers respond
The Christian Brothers issued the following statement on Thursday:
“The Christian Brothers Oceania Province apologises completely and unreservedly to those who have suffered as a result of the crimes for which one of our brothers has today been sentenced.
“The consequences of such criminal acts are both devastating and far-reaching across families, communities and our society.
“It is of enormous sorrow and regret that those who were given the responsibility to protect and educate innocent children broke this solemn responsibility and abused those in their charge.
“As a result these children, now in their adult lives, have carried this terrible legacy with them. They should never have had their trust, and that of their families, so grievously betrayed. There are no words or actions that can take away what happened or repair the damage that it has caused.
“Our apology to you for these terrible events is unreserved and enduring. Further charges remain the subject of ongoing judicial proceedings and as such the Christian Brothers are unable to comment further at this stage.”
Following his teaching career, Obbens was put in charge of the Order’s archives.