Marist brother avoids jail over 'massages'

Genevieve Gannon

A former Catholic school principal convicted of sexually abusing students while giving them "sports massages" in the 1970s has avoided jail for a second time.

Marist Brother Gerard Joseph McNamara, 78, was handed a 16-month suspended sentence by the Victorian County Court on Tuesday after admitting to indecently assaulting two brothers in 1975.

In 2005 McNamara was sentenced to 36 months - also wholly suspended - for seven offences committed in the exact same circumstances.

Most of the assaults happened in the school sports shed after the student sustained an "injury".

The principal and sports master at St Paul's Catholic College in Traralgon had a reputation among students, who referred to the abuse as "getting a rub down from Brother Gerard".

One of his 1975 victims had gone to the school office after injuring his knee where a female staff member told him to remove his pants so they could be mended.

McNamara arrived and started applying Dencorub to the boy's groin area.

He then placed his hand inside his underpants and fondled him.

The victim was ridiculed when he returned to class smelling of liniment.

That same year the victim's brother injured his leg playing football.

McNamara told him to go to the sports shed, where he removed his pants and gave him a "rub down".

He did not touch the boy's genitals on this occasion but ordered him to return to the shed two days later.

On this occasion he removed the boy's underpants and gave him another "sports massage".

In a victim impact statement, one of the victims said the ridicule he suffered as a result of the "rub downs" caused extra trauma.

"You saw fit to place your self-gratification above your duties," the ex-student said.

The court heard McNamara told a psychologist he found the suggestion of sexual assault "abhorrent".

McNamara saw his sports massages as "healing" and was proud of the skill.

However he acknowledged he was seen as an "enforcer" among the students.

Judge James Parrish sentenced him to 16 months in prison, wholly suspended.