A paedophile priest who abused a “staggering” number of boys has been sentenced to 13 years in prison in a Sydney court today.
John Sidney Denham, 73, who treated schools as a “paedophilic smorgasbord”, had already been jailed for at least 14 years in 2010 for his “sadistic” sexual assault of boys as young as five.
But on Friday Judge Helen Syme sentenced him to at least another 13 years for the abuse of another 18 boys, describing his crimes as some of the worst the courts have ever seen.
“As the crown rhetorically asks, `How much worse does it get?'” she stated.
Denham’s victims intermittently left in tears on Friday as the court heard how, through the protection of church colleagues, he was able to have 18 years of uninterrupted offending across schools in NSW.
At St Pius X College in the Hunter region, where he taught from 1975 to 1979, Judge Syme said the abuse happened “wherever and whenever” Denham wanted – in the playground, at his office and even outside the confessional.
The now deceased principal Father Tom Brennan must have known about his “depraved behaviour”, Judge Syme said, adding that there was an “organised undercurrent of sexualised behaviour being sanctioned and more than likely planned” at the school.
Preying on the most vulnerable boys, Sydney’s District Court heard Denham would befriend the child, give them treats, abuse them and then threaten them.
To one boy he tauntingly asked, “Who was going to believe a child over a priest?”.
If the boys ever complained to the principal, further physical abuse ensued.
He treated St Pius X as “his own paedophilic smorgasbord”, with dozens having complained of abuse over four-and-a-half years at the school.
“The sheer volume of boys and the number of times each child was abused is staggering even to this court,” she said.
The effects on them have been catastrophic, Judge Syme added.
For the abuse of 18 boys at the school and 25 charges, as well as 23 other offences, Denham was sentenced to at least 13 years and a maximum of 18 years dating from Friday.
As this will be served at the same time as his 2010 sentence, he will be eligible for parole in 2028 when he is 85 years old.
– with AAP