‘Sadistic’ priest jailed for abusing 39 boys
(ABCNews) The public gallery of a Sydney court has burst into applause as a Catholic priest was sentenced to at least 13 years and 10 months in jail for abusing 39 schoolboys whose complaints about him were mostly ignored.
By court reporter Jamelle Wells
Updated Fri Jul 2, 2010 1:54pm AEST
John Sidney Denham, 67, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the boys at schools in Sydney, Newcastle, the Hunter Valley and Taree between 1968 and 1986.
Most of the students were from Newcastle’s St Pius X High School, where Denham was a teacher from 1975 to 1980.
In sentencing today, District Court judge Helen Syme said some of the offences were “sadistic” and “contributed to a culture of fear and depravity” in the schools he taught at.
Justice Syme said many complaints about the former priest were not acted on and students left school early to avoid his attentions.
She said the priest showed some of his victims pornographic movies and gave others chocolates, alcohol and money.
Downing Centre District Court heard Denham had asked one of his victims, who was then aged between 11 to 13, to be his “special friend”.
Justice Syme said while Denham had forgiven himself for what he had done, she was not satisfied he was genuinely remorseful.
Denham sat hunched over looking at the ground and avoiding the gaze of his victims and their families, as he was sentenced to a maximum sentence of 19 years and 10 months, with a non-parole period of 13 years and 10 months for 135 offences.
His victims and their supporters in the public gallery burst into applause.
Some of his victims left the court at times today while Denham was being sentenced.
Afterwards, one of them said the abuse was well-known among students at his school. He said when the former priest walked past them, they would say, “Denham’s on the crawl”.
He said there were probably other victims who had not come forward.
The mother of one of the victims said the abuse had “ruined families” and the Catholic Church should have done something sooner.
“It’s disgusting, the hierarchy in the Catholic Church. I can’t believe it,” she said. “I can’t believe I sent my children to a school like that.”
Another of the victims said, “My only hope from the result we achieved today is that other abuse victims have the strength and courage to come forward and achieve justice as we’ve seen today.”
‘Mere scumbag paedophile’
Yesterday, Denham told the court he had spent the past 25 years trying to work out why he abused the boys.
“All I can say is, I am so sorry,” he said. “I see myself as a mere scumbag paedophile who took advantage of a situation and used my power to abuse young people.”
Denham said he could only put the crimes down to hubris, telling the court, “It was as if I thought no-one could resist me”.
He said he preyed on the boys because he felt sorry for them.
Under cross examination from the Crown Prosecutor, the court heard Denham said the children were “little bastards who were already in trouble from their teachers.”
He said they were sent to him to be disciplined.
The former priest said he realised he was attracted to power and had convinced himself the children were consenting.
A psychiatrist told the court, despite the guilty plea, Denham was still in denial about being a paedophile.
Denham has been in custody since he was arrested in August, 2008. His arrest stemmed from an initial complaint in April that year.