A former Victorian Christian brother and teacher must be jailed for exploiting his position of power to sexually abuse a 10-year-old, a magistrate says.
But Stephen Francis Farrell walked from the Ballarat courtroom after appealing against his three-month jail term for molesting the boy, his third schoolboy victim.
Magistrate Michelle Hodgson jailed Farrell, 62, for indecently assaulting the boy while teaching at St Alipius School in Ballarat in the mid 1970s.
She said a message needed to be sent to the wider community that those who abused their roles of trust would be punished.
“Slowly but surely we have come to realise many of these sexual predators are people who have taken advantage of positions of power,” she said on Thursday.
“We forget in a more secular 2013 the power the church wielded over families.”
The victim is the third Farrell has admitted assaulting, following a 1997 conviction on nine charges of indecently assaulting two brothers at St Alipius around the same period.
On that occasion Farrell avoided jail, with a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years.
His lawyer Sarah Leighfield immediately appealed against Farrell’s three-month prison term handed to him in the Ballarat Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Ms Hodgson granted Farrell bail until his appeal can be heard in early 2014.
Following the hearing, Christian Brothers Oceania Province issued an apology to anyone harmed by Farrell, who left the order in 1974.
“Child abuse undermines our society and erodes the sense of safety, trust and innocence to which all children are entitled,” Christian Brothers professional standards officer Brother Brian Brandon said.
“On behalf of the Christian Brothers’ leadership team I again express our sincere apology to all of those harmed in any way by the actions of this man.”
Peter Blenkiron of victims’ support group Ballarat District Group Survivors welcomed the jail term.
But he said some of Farrell’s three victims who had been in court left frustrated by his appeal.
“It’s mixed emotions, hopefully he goes to appeal and gets longer,” he said.
“The sentence itself, I think it makes a statement to all the victims.”
Farrell pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a schoolboy who he ordered to go to the sick bay and remove his pants after spilling paint on himself.
He followed the boy into the room and fondled his genitals as his victim wept.
The boy’s mother approached Brother Paul Nangle, the headmaster of fellow Christian Brothers school St Patrick’s College, Ballarat after the boy reported the abuse.
Farrell left the Christian Brothers in late 1974 but the crime was not brought to the notice of police until 2012.
Ms Hodgson said Farrell, 22 at the time of his offending, had been socially isolated in the Christian Brothers and came to court a totally different man, after marriage and fatherhood.
Farrell continued to teach in Catholic schools for several years and even served as principal at a Melbourne school after leaving the Christian Brothers.
Ms Hodgson described him as a low risk of reoffending but said general deterrence in cases of child abuse must be a primary sentencing consideration.