A man who was sexually abused as a child by his boarding master at one of Sydney’s wealthiest schools says Victor Thomas Higgs is “pure evil” and hopes he “rots in hell”.
Before the 81-year-old was sentenced to 12 years’ jail on Friday, his victims told the NSW District Court about the devastating impact of Higgs’ predatory behaviour in the 1970s and 1980s at St Ignatius’ College, Riverview, the school attended by Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce.
They collectively described decades of relationship and intimacy issues, anxiety, substance abuse, shame and distrust.
One victim said that because of Higgs, he’d lived for more than 30 years without any self-esteem, his trust in people had been shattered and his marriage had fallen apart.
“He is evil and I hope he rots in hell – in actual fact, hell is too good for him,” he said in his victim impact statement.
Higgs was found guilty in October of 16 charges of indecent assault on six boys in the boarding house and at a NSW beach house.
“To this day, the offender is still in denial,” Judge Christopher Robison said in sentencing him.
Judge Robison said Higgs, a Jesuit brother who was 34 at the first offence, took advantage of the very young and vulnerable boys boarding in the prestigious Lane Cove college, planning attacks and conducting them in the privacy of his bedroom, office or other locations.
“He was trawling the seas for the weak and vulnerable,” he said.
Judge Robison sympathised with the victims and said they deserved the protection from the “whole school”.
“Sadly, they did not get it,” he said.
“They need not be ashamed of anything because they did nothing wrong.”
In one incident, he told a young boy he needed to inspect how he was progressing through puberty and ordered the boy to undress completely.
The older man then touched various parts of the boy’s body, saying “you will grow hair here” and then cupping the student’s genitals.
Another victim described hearing Higgs making a “purring-like sound” as he assaulted them.
Victims applauded as Higgs was led from the courtroom.
“See you later,” one man said.
He was sentenced to a seven-and-a-half-years before he’s eligible for parole.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce told The Australian after the guilty verdicts that he and other boarders at Riverview knew Higgs was a “creep” and banded together to try to protect each other from him.
They didn’t understand they could have complained about him, Mr Joyce said.