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Brother Neil Richards

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Brother Neil Richards Blind Justice

Brother Neil Richards

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Former Christian Brother, Brother Desmond Eric “Neil” Richards, commonly known as Brother Neil Richards or Brother Neil, abused his trusted position as a Brother, teacher and principal and committed shocking crimes against children over a 20-year period from the 1960s to 1980s. Decades later he has finally been brought to justice for various crimes as further details of his abuse continue to emerge.

Brother Neil started teaching as a Christian Brother in 1961. He had a lengthy career as a teacher and principal at a number of Christian Brothers schools throughout Sydney and regional New South Wales. His first known crime against a child was said to have occurred in 1962.

Brother Neil Richards
Brother Desmond Eric “Neil” Richards

Christian Brothers schools that Brother Neil taught at included:

Brother Neil is known to have physically and sexually abused boys who were as young as 8 to 13 years of age. It is reported that Brother Neil would isolate a boy, molest him, then subject him to weeks of physical punishment subsequent to the abuse for any minor disciplinary issue as a way to silence  him and ensure his abuse would never be revealed by the terrified boys.[2] Richards whipped the boys he abused repeatedly with a strap in an attempt to dominate and control them.[3]

Moved From School to School

Brother Neil’s behaviour continued unchecked as he moved from school to school.

By the 1990s Brother Neil ceased teaching but remained as a Christian Brother and in the service of the Catholic Church.

Allegations of abuse were apparently first reported to the Christian Brothers by a number of his victims in 1997.[4] It appears however that were either not taken seriously or “stalled by the order”.[5] Nothing was reported to police at the time. Certainly, those in positions of authority failed to take action and children suffered as a result. It was more than a decade before the allegations were reported to police.

In 2006 Brother Neil was charged with an offence relating to child abuse and was put on a good behaviour bond.

Brother Neil continued his service in the Catholic Church and in 2009 he was sent to the Vatican in Rome. Likewise, it is reported that whilst Brother Neil was in Rome he was responsible for the website for the Christian Brothers Oceania (Australia and the Pacific).

Whilst Brother Neil was in Rome, the police continued their investigations.

Brother Neil was arrested in late 2013 when he returned to Australia from the Vatican.

Further Charges

He was charged with a number of offences relating to assaults in 1972, 1976 and 1982.[6] and subsequently he plead guilty. He was initially granted bail, which was then revoked when he pleaded guilty as it was noted the severity of his crimes, despite his age and failing health, meant he would be given a custodial sentence.[7]

Brother Neil was sentenced by District Court Judge Peter Zahra to 3 years 3 months in prison (minimum 2 years to be served) for indecently assaulting four boys between 1972 and 1982[8] at St Patrick’s Albury, Bishop Henschke Boys’ School and St Patrick’s College Strathfield,[9] as well as for the abuse of a boy at a school camp at Arcadia in north-west Sydney.[10]

Despite Richards’ advanced age, poor health and failing memory, “the need for deterrence and community retribution weighs very heavily in favour of full-time custody”, said Judge Zahra.[11]

The boys abused by Brother Neil were said to be vulnerable or problem students, [12] and Brother Neil took advantage of his position of power. [13] Judge Zahra reiterated the offences were a breach of trust. [14]

It was revealed by Brother Neil’s own lawyer at this time that as noted above the Christian Brothers had been aware of allegations of abuse since 1997, whilst the police allegations were not made to police for a further decade. This information was passed onto the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which had commenced by the time Brother Neil was sentenced. [15][16][17]

St Patrick's Christian Brothers
St Patrick’s Christian Brothers

Previous Abuse Revealed

A shocking revelation was made by Judge Zahra when he revealed during sentencing that Brother Neil was charged with similar offences at a school camp at Katoomba early in his teaching career but the charge was withdrawn.[18] He never faced any consequences and as was abundantly clear, he had continued to offend after that initial brush with the law. Judge Zahra noted  the good behaviour bond Brother Neil received for a similar offence in Gosford in 2006.[19]

It was also revealed Brother Neil had been moved into non-teaching roles and provided with some form of psychiatric treatment or counselling by the Catholic Church.[20]

After Richards was sentences the Christian Brothers Oceania issued a statement apologizing for the actions of Brother Neil Richards.[21]

In 2014 another former student spoke to police about abuse perpetrated by Brother Neil against him at a Christian Brothers school in 1977. The former student was 10 years old at the time and suffered two years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Richards. [22]

Brother Neil was serving his sentence and was supposed to be eligible for parole in 2016, however, he was then charged and convicted of further offences.

In April 2016 He plead guilty to eight counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault. Further victims were uncovered by investigations undertaken by police and a further six charges were taken into account during sentencing .[23]

In December 2016 he was sentenced to a further six years imprisonment for abuse of six students, including two from St Edward’s College in East Gosford which occurred between the 1960s and 1980s.[24]

Whilst some believed Brother Neil deserved a harsher penalty, Judge Jeffrey McLennan conceded that whilst the penalty was inadequate, he was required to sentence Brother Neil in line with what he would have received at the time of the offence.[25] In contrast, if the offences had been committed in 2016, the penalties he would have faced would have been substantially more and in excess of 10 years for each offence.[26]

NSW Courts
NSW Law Courts

Parole

Brother Neil would have been eligible for parole on 15 December 2019. However, in 2018, he faced further charges.

In 2018 Brother Neil was sentenced again to further gaol time in the Parramatta District Court for offences that occurred against Year 5 and 6 students at St Patrick’s College Strathfield in 1986 and 1987.

He was due to be eligible to apply for release on parole after 15 December 2021, however, in 2020, further charges were filed against Richards in January 2020.[27] The charges are said to relate to abuse of a then 8 year old boy again at St Edward’s Primary School, (now called St Patrick’s) in East Gosford in 1980.[28]The status of these charges is currently unknown.

Although Brother Neil is now an elderly man reportedly in poor health, it is not too late for those who were abused to seek justice.  Indeed as was noted by Judge Zahra in Brother Neil’s 2014 sentencing,  children are entitled to grow up free from the threat of sexual assault.[29] However Brother Neil wrongfully took that freedom and despite many decades passing, he is now finally being punished for his crimes.

Assistance

If you or someone you know is living with the trauma of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, we urge you to seek professional help. Time shows us that these traumas of childhood live on into adulthood, and impact the victims and those around them over decades. It is important to know that there are those in the community who do stand up, do speak out, and do advocate for the protection of the vulnerable. If you choose to seek compensation speak to us and we will listen in the utmost confidence, and assist you wherever we can. Please click here to submit a callback request. Also, do not hesitate to call Ross Koffel on 02 9283 5599 for assistance.


Footnotes:

[1] http://www.brokenrites.org.au/drupal/node/314
[2] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/angry-scenes-as-christian-brother-jailed
[3] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/former-christian-brothers-headmaster-desmond-richards-in-custody-pending-likely-jail-term-for-assaulting-boys-20141107-11ijw5.html
[4] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/christian-brother-who-assaulted-boys-bail-revoked/5874956; https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/former-christian-brothers-headmaster-desmond-richards-in-custody-pending-likely-jail-term-for-assaulting-boys-20141107-11ijw5.html
[5] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/angry-scenes-as-christian-brother-jailed
[6] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/angry-scenes-as-christian-brother-jailed
[7] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/christian-brother-who-assaulted-boys-bail-revoked/5874956
[8] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[9] https://www.moodylaw.com.au/brother-neil
[10] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/christian-brother-who-assaulted-boys-bail-revoked/5874956
[11] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/former-christian-brothers-headmaster-desmond-richards-in-custody-pending-likely-jail-term-for-assaulting-boys-20141107-11ijw5.html
[12] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[13] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[14] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[15] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/christian-brother-who-assaulted-boys-bail-revoked/5874956
[16] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[17] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/christian-brother-who-assaulted-boys-bail-revoked/5874956; https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/former-christian-brothers-headmaster-desmond-richards-in-custody-pending-likely-jail-term-for-assaulting-boys-20141107-11ijw5.html
[18] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[19] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-07/christian-brother-who-assaulted-boys-bail-revoked/5874956
[20] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[21] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[22] https://www.newcastleherald.com.au/story/4360344/convicted-of-child-sexual-abuse-and-sent-to-rome/#:~:text=Desmond%20%22Neil%22%20Richards-,CHRISTIAN%20Brother%20Desmond%20%E2%80%9CNeil%E2%80%9D%20Richards%20committed%20his%20first%20crime%20against,returned%20to%20Australia%20in%202013.
[23] https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/christian-brother-jailed-for-historical-assaults-on-boys/news-story/6e6224b05c033cc7ed46d8d6b633a7a6
[24] https://www.moodylaw.com.au/brother-neil
[25] https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/christian-brother-jailed-for-historical-assaults-on-boys/news-story/6e6224b05c033cc7ed46d8d6b633a7a6
[26] https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/central-coast/christian-brother-jailed-for-historical-assaults-on-boys/news-story/6e6224b05c033cc7ed46d8d6b633a7a6
[27] http://www.brokenrites.org.au/drupal/node/314
[28] http://www.brokenrites.org.au/drupal/node/314
[29] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036
[30] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-27/christian-brother-jailed-for-indecently-assaulting-boys/5922036

If you or someone you know is living with the trauma of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, we urge you to seek professional help. Time shows us that these traumas of childhood live on into adulthood, and impact the victims and those around them over decades. It is important to know that there are those in the community who do stand up, do speak out, and do advocate for the protection of the vulnerable. If you choose to seek compensation speak to us and we will listen in the utmost confidence, and assist you wherever we can. Please do not hesitate to call Ross Koffel on 02 9283 5599 for assistance.

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