A Christian Brother who spent his 80th birthday behind bars as a pedophile has walked free from jail after his convictions were quashed on appeal.
A jury last year convicted John Francis Tyrrell of 10 charges including the buggery and indecent assault of a complainant who said he was abused as a boy more than half a century ago at Geelong's St Joseph's College.
The Court of Appeal on Friday overturned the verdict and ordered Mr Tyrrell be "quickly" released, having already spent more than a year in prison.
He was taken into custody ahead of his sentencing last April, when he was ordered to serve 11 years in prison.
The sentence sent Mr Tyrrell to jail for at least six-and-a-half years before being eligible for release on parole, and it was accepted the brother, who is frail and partially blind, could have died there.
Supporters clapped and whooped after the appeal decision and immediately began making plans with Mr Tyrrell's lawyers to pick him up.
The appeal argued the verdict was unsafe and unsatisfactory, and inconsistent with his acquittal on four other charges by the same jury.
Justices Stephen Kaye, Richard Niall and Mark Weinberg described the circumstances of the case leading to the original conviction as "most unusual".
The prosecution relied on the word of the sole complainant alone.
He initially told police he had been abused from the age of 10, between 1965 and 1968 and that the abuse only stopped when he confronted Mr Tyrrell in early 1969.
But Mr Tyrrell left St Joseph's in 1966.
"The departure of the applicant from the school would have been an unforgettable landmark in (the complainant's) young life, a watershed in his school years," the judges said.
"The fact the complainant did not recall that event but rather recalled that the abuse continued in the ensuing two years, was a most significant discrepancy in his evidence."
The fact it didn't stand out in his memory "raised a substantial question about the truth and reliability" of the evidence of the complainant, now in his 60s.
They found there were also substantial inconsistencies between what the man had told police and his evidence at trial.
The passage of time was also a factor.
"The lengthy delay of more than 50 years was itself extraordinary," they added, noting it meant important evidence and witnesses were not available which had a detrimental effect on the fairness of the trial.
It was also noted that Mr Tyrrell had a lengthy career as a Christian Brothers teacher across Victoria, during which he had never committed any criminal offence.
The offending described by the complainant was that of a "practised and incorrigible pedophile".
It was improbable that Mr Tyrrell would have abused the complainant in the way described then undergone a "dramatic transformation", desisting from any further similar conduct.