Russell Robert Walker scanned the room and bowed his head as he entered a Parramatta District courtroom on Friday.
The 76-year-old former Salvation Army officer, now a HIV AIDS patient, came face-to-face with his accusers once again, following a six-week trial.
He listened silently as a woman read out an impact statement on behalf of one of his victims.
“You used your power to overcome me. You violated me and stole my innocence. I feel my childhood was robbed,” she said.
Walker, once a Captain at the Gill Memorial Boys Home in Goulburn, was found guilty on July 25 of 18 counts of indecent assault of a male, two counts of buggery, and one each of attempting to procure/commission an indecent act with a male and procuring/commissioning an indecent act with a male.
The offences occurred at Goulburn between 1972 and 1974 and the Salvation Army’s Bexley Boys Home from 1971-72.
Following his arrest in late 2016, he was charged with 33 historical sex offences. However, in July, Judge Greg Grogin directed the jury to make not guilty findings on seven charges. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on several other alleged offences.
On Friday, Walker was arraigned on a further two charges of indecent assault on a male, to which he pleaded guilty. But the Sydney man had maintained his innocence on previous charges up until the jury’s guilty verdict in July. Walker has been held in Silverwater Jail since.
The charges relate to six victims: one from Bexley and five from the Goulburn Boys Home, Detective Sergeant Nigel Warren confirmed. Some of the ex-Goulburn residents were in court on Friday, but opted to provide written rather than oral victim impact statements.
The court heard that Walker had used corporal punishment on the boys, made excuses to get them alone and then sexually and indecently assaulted them.
One victim said Walker had tried to kiss him and, when he wouldn’t open his mouth, “hit me, like a backhander”.
“I opened my mouth and he put his tongue in there,” the victim stated in evidence tendered to the court.
The woman who read a victim impact statement on behalf of a former Bexley boy told the court how he’d struggled to write the material.
“The raw emotion of putting it down on paper is immensely hard, but I know it’s something I have to do,” he wrote.
“I was just a child (when I went into Bexley), an innocent.”
He said a child did not deserve to be preyed upon, let alone by anyone in authority. He described lying in bed at night afraid that he would be singled out by Walker and sexually abused.
“I would rather get a flogging than be the one … During the incident I was so overcome with fear, I cried … I prayed to God to kill me,” he wrote.
“… You were a grown adult who made your choices and you chose to inflict pain on me, a little boy. When you abused me, you not only caused physical pain, you broke my spirit.”
The man recounted how Walker had told him “God will forgive you,” causing the victim to believe he’d done something wrong. But, he said, Walker, who was supposed to be a servant of God, was the sinner.
You will know some of what I felt, locked away from family, cold and alone.Victim
“You will be forever remembered as a paedophile. You are responsible for your actions … All your sins will be revealed to your Lord.”
The man said his mental health was seriously affected by the abuse. In adulthood he would wake up in a sweat, yelling and “absolutely petrified”. He was medicated as a result. The man became a heavy drinker, his marriage broke down because he couldn’t bring himself to tell his wife of the abuse, he had suicidal thoughts and “no coping skills” to face life’s challenges.
But he was sustained by the love and support of family. The man wrote that he was happy and relieved when Walker was charged. Now the accused was facing jail.
“You will know some of what I felt, locked away from family, cold and alone,” he wrote.
“… I finally had the courage to tell someone. I’m proud to say I survived and fought for justice. I will never be an abuser like you … I’m no longer a silent victim and have found my voice.”
In sentencing submissions on Friday, Crown prosecutor Monica Millward said Walker’s victims were aged nine to 14.
She argued to Judge Grogin that it was not necessary for him to establish whether Walker was in a position of trust or authority at the homes, but to look at the nature of the relationship.
“He had a very dominant position where if boys didn’t do what he said, (it was clear) there would be consequences in terms of corporal punishment and what the offender ultimately did,” Ms Millward said.
She told the court the Crown and defence did not differ greatly on the gravity of offences, simply the context and substance of some.
Ms Millward said Walker had grabbed the genitals of one victim and told him, “You’ll enjoy this.” In another instance, he had approached a boy in a toilet and asked him to suck his penis. The boy refused. Walker was also charged with reaching through bed sheets and fondling a boy’s penis.
“We note the offending took place over three years and only ended in March, 1974 when the defendant was arrested in regard to (a victim). He had no further involvement in boys’ homes,” she told the court.
Walker was dismissed from the Army the same year.
Ms Millward said it was “quite a complicated sentencing matter,” given this year’s addition of Section 25AA of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999. This allows judges to sentence according to today’s standards rather than those applying at the time of the offence. However, the maximum penalty of the time still applies.
But Ms Millward maintained Walker should not be given a longer parole period, due to his mental health.
“To vary it generally would fail to balance the principles of sentencing and to reflect the gravity of the offences,” she said.
Defence barrister Paul Johnson said the court could find that his client’s position of authority was an aggravating factor. However, he argued Walker had no special relationship with the victims.
“It was not a pastoral or religious role; it was different,” he said.
Mr Johnson told the court he appreciated the sentence must be “just and appropriate” but asked that it consider his client’s age and health. He said Walker had had HIV AIDS for 35 years.
“Persons with that condition need their medication and where possible, to avoid stress and jail is stressful for anyone,” he said.
On Friday, Walker did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.
Judge Grogin reserved sentencing until November 16 at Parramatta District Court.
As Walker left the dock he turned and bowed to a section of the gallery.
Walker was charged in November, 2016 following investigations by Strike Force Lehmann, comprising detectives from the State Crime Command’s Sex Crimes Squad.
Detective Sergeant Nigel Warren said the 10-member team was charged with investigating allegations made about the Salvation Army’s Goulburn and Bexley Boys Homes at the 2014 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
John Dalziel McIver, a Salvation Army officer who served at Bexley, was also charged in November, 2016. The 78-year-old is facing two charges of indecent assault on a male, seven counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and four of common assault. McIver is free on bail.
His trial was due to begin on August 28 but was delayed until July 1, 2019 for legal reasons.
Detective Sergeant Warren said the Strikeforce’s investigations were continuing in regard to other Salvation Army officers.
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