Jail 'inevitable' for religious brother

By Sophie Tarr

For the adults who made up the tight-knit Catholic communities of regional NSW in the 1970s and 80s, the Marist Brothers "could do no wrong", a Sydney court has been told.

But the children knew better.

Court documents detail how students taught by Darcy John O'Sullivan at schools in the NSW Hunter region and near Lismore in the state's north, would warn younger boys to "watch out" for the brother, who has now admitted sexually abusing a dozen of his former charges.

According to an agreed statement of facts signed by O'Sullivan - known to his victims as Brother Dominic - the children at one school had a saying: "Bums to the wall, Dom's on the crawl".

The 78-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this year to a string of indecent assaults against boys aged in their early teens and on Friday faced a sentence hearing in the Downing Centre District Court.

He appeared impassive in the dock as the men he preyed upon as children delivered emotional victim impact statements outlining the lifelong toll his assaults had taken on them.

One man, a former altar boy who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the hearing that as a child he would kneel each evening to recite the Rosary with members of his devout Catholic family.

But O'Sullivan's repeated attacks cost him his faith.

"I was raised in an atmosphere where the Catholic community believed that people in religious orders could do no wrong," he said.

"I was living with a family and in a community from which I was now disconnected, because what was real to me was unimaginable to them."

Documents describe how O'Sullivan would walk from desk to desk during his technical drawing classes, calmly addressing this student or that whilst rubbing victims' shorts or buttocks.

On Friday, one of his victims said he still experienced flashbacks.

"I have nightmares, and in the day I am confronted by Brother Dominic and I can see his very self-satisfied grin after he had finished with me," he said.

"I find myself suddenly in the classroom, and it is dark, but I can see. I can smell the drawing desks, the paper, the dust."

He hugged a fellow victim as they passed one another in the courtroom.

Judge Kate Traill said it was inevitable O'Sullivan would receive a full-time jail term.

But she knocked back a crown application for O'Sullivan to be immediately taken into custody, noting that he had complied with bail conditions over the years since he was first charged, and that he was receiving treatment for a major depressive disorder.

"I am of the view that because many of these matters happened a long time ago, when he was in a different position, that if released he would not commit offences of that type," Judge Traill said.

O'Sullivan must return to court for sentencing submissions on August 26 and is expected to be sentenced soon after.