Victims of Dennis John McKenna have received an apology from the serial paedophile through his lawyer but will have to wait until next month for him to be sentenced on 34 counts of sexual abuse after a judge this morning delayed the decision.
About 30 people wore blue wristbands bearing the words “St Andrew’s Hostel Supporter” as they sat in Perth District Court to hear his fate on fresh charges against 17 young boys.
McKenna, 68, who was the warden of the State-run Katanning hostel between 1975 and 1990, pleaded guilty to the offences in October after negotiations with prosecutors saw the total number of charges reduced from 69.
He is already serving a six-year prison term for molesting boys at St Andrew’s Hostel in Katanning between 1975 and 1990, and was previously jailed in 1991 for similar offences.
During sentencing submissions, defence lawyer Patti Chong read out an apology from McKenna to his victims and their families and friends.
In the statement, McKenna admitted sexual abusing young boys at the hostel and conceded that his actions had robbed his victims of their innocence, destroyed their lives and caused them and their families’ life long sorrow.
“I robbed the victims of their innocence, corrupted them, destroyed their lives, caused them and their families profound sorrow and committed acts which have had grave lifelong consequences for them and their families,” the statement read.
“I sincerely and truly apologise to all the victims of my abuse, their friends and families, and express my deep remorse and contrition for my conduct.
“I seek forgiveness from the victims and their families for my sins and my crimes but accept it may be an insurmountable task in the face of the pain and suffering I have caused.
“I hope that in some way, my apology may appease the victims and help them heal and move on with their lives.”
Ms Chong also cited pre-sentence and psychological reports, and argued that her client felt “immense shame and horror” over his crimes.
She said he accepted and regretted his offending, and referred to a report that noted he had been on a “journey of self-discovery“ since his first imprisonment in 1991 and had not reoffended since then, having successfully rehabilitated himself.
McKenna felt empathy for his victims after exploring unresolved issues about his own abuse as a child, Ms Chong said.
Judge Kevin Sleight said he needed more time to consider material submitted to the court, including victim impact statements, before sentencing McKenna.
Sentencing is now due to take place on February 18.
The case prompted an inquiry last year into whether authorities knew about the sexual abuse at the Katanning hostel.
The scope of the inquiry was later expanded to include St Christopher’s hostel at Northam, Hardie House at South Hedland and St Michael’s House at Merredin.
WA Premier Colin Barnett apologised to the victims on behalf of the State Government.
The victims can apply for up to $45,000 in compensation.