National

Christian Brother jailed for abusing boys

By AAP Newswire

After decades of pain, the victims of predatory Christian Brother John Laidlaw have finally seen him punished.

The 80-year-old admitted sexually abusing six boys while teaching at Catholic schools in Melbourne and regional Victoria between 1963 and 1984.

On Thursday, they were in the County Court to witness him being jailed for four-and-a-half years.

One of the men, who did not want to be named, said he feels relieved and vindicated.

"For the first time in my life, at 51, I feel like a man," he told AAP outside.

"(Laidlaw) may spend the rest of his life in jail, he may die in jail. And you know, that's for him to deal with, that's his cross to bear."

"I feel nothing for him."

Another victim, Chris Horsley wants other children to know they can speak up if abused.

"If you have sad stuff swimming around in your head or are carrying a heavy heart, talk aloud to someone you trust," he wrote in a statement.

"And in an instant, you won't feel alone or be alone any more with your nightmares or daydreams."

Laidlaw pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault and two of sexually penetrating a child but lied to a psychologist just weeks ago about his crimes, sentencing Judge Peter Berman said.

"You are going to jail for a finite number of years. Your victims will never be free from the effects of your exploitation of them," he said.

"Had you done recently what you did so long ago, much longer sentences would have been imposed."

Laidlaw targeted boys he coached for sport, molesting them under the guise of massaging their injuries.

He was allowed to keep teaching despite a 1973 church report raising serious concerns about him.

While working at a Christian Brothers college at Bundoora, Laidlaw turned up at one student's house who was home sick and forced the 16-year-old to perform oral sex.

Afterwards, as the boy lay sobbing on his bed, Laidlaw said there was no point telling anyone what had happened because they would not believe it.

"Your callous indifference to his suffering is remarkable," Judge Berman said.

Laidlaw's victims told the court his abuse had caused suicide attempts and failed marriages and had them self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

"From the moment he left me in my room, sobbing and in complete shock - confused, disbelief and utter despair - he took my soul. In that moment, he took everything that I believed in," one man said.

Laidlaw must spend at least three years and two months behind bars before being eligible for parole.

In a statement, the Christian Brothers Oceania Province apologised to Laidlaw's victims.

"You should never have had to endure the pain and suffering you have undoubtedly faced as consequence of these terrible crimes," the statement said.

Judge Berman's full sentencing remarks are available online at:

https://www.countycourt.vic.gov.au/news-and-media/news-listing/2019-07-18-sentencing-remarks-dpp-v-john-laidlaw

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