NSW Christian Brother jailed for abuse

·3-min read

A Christian Brother who changed a student forever by sexually abusing him in a regional NSW school has been jailed for at least one year and two months.

Thomas Rodney Sullivan, 82, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of indecent assault between 1975 and 1976 at St Patrick's College in Goulburn.

He continues to deny what happened 47 years ago and claims he was "set up".

His victim was aged 13 and 14 when the groundskeeper "took that childhood innocence and manipulated it for his own selfish gratification and evilness", he told the NSW District Court earlier.

"It changed me forever."

The full-time boarder described the school as a "terrible place full of draconian practices administered by unfeeling bullies".

He originally saw Sullivan as a friend, but he was soon left "terrified and betrayed" and felt "completely alone".

Sullivan was aged 35 and employed as a Christian lay brother performing maintenance duties.

As students were given chores such as mowing they became friendly with Sullivan who was frequently out the back near the tool sheds.

Summertime in 1975 his victim arrived at the sheds with some boys but they left him alone with the maintenance man.

"Come with me," he commanded.

He was led to the first floor of the Brother's accommodation known as the Brother's House which was out of bounds for students.

After closing the door he sat on his bed and began fondling his victim's genitals saying things like "you're a beautiful boy".

Years later he remembered being in complete shock and did not say a word as he felt "completely powerless and completely alone".

Sullivan repeated similar acts in the same room in the months that followed where he also digitally penetrated the young teenager.

Within a week of that incident the student told a Father at the school he was unhappy and was eventually moved in 1978.

"Embarrassed, ashamed and worried his family might blame him," he only spoke to a friend of being "molested" in 1979, and told his brother in 2003.

He officially complained after both parents passed away as he did not want to impact his mother's relationship with her faith.

The worst part, he told the court, was the long-lasting effect it had on his relationships as he had been robbed of great bonding moments with his children.

He hoped his story could inspire other victims to speak out irrespective of how long ago the abusive crime was committed.

Six Brothers, a Father, and other friends provided character references for Sullivan expressing "shock" at the allegations and repeating that it seemed "totally out of character".

Judge Kate Traill accepted the offending was perhaps out of line with the character that he had "become" and noted he was not since accused of any more assaults.

Sullivan was deemed at low risk of reoffending due to his old age and not being in a position of trust he could abuse again.

The judge found special circumstances given it was his first time in custody as an elderly man and COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons making conditions for inmates extremely harsh.

Sullivan was jailed for a maximum term of two years and will first be eligible for parole on November 23, 2022.

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