Church leader jailed for abuse that went over 15 years

CHURCH and family members ostracised victims of child sex abuse carried out by a Central Queensland church leader and 'uncle'.

The Gladstone man was convicted in 1985 for child sex abuse against three victims and has again been jailed for a further seven victims.

The man, in his 70s, cannot be named for legal reasons.

He was sentenced last week to three years and six months prison, suspended after serving 14 months with a five-year operational period.

The sentence was handed down after he pleaded guilty in Rockhampton District Court to 14 indecent treatment of children charges against seven victims who knew the defendant as their "uncle".

The court heard he had been convicted of eight counts of aggravated assault of a sexual nature in Gladstone in 1985. He was sentenced to four months prison.

Those victims were aged nine to 14, with one being his neighbour who he was babysitting

Last week. three of his victims faced him in court, reading out their impact statements.

Read here: Child sex abuse victim's life broken beyond repair

Young victim groomed with chocolate now repulsed by treat

"When innocence is taken from a child, they are broken in a way that can never be repaired," Gina said.

"My whole life I have grown up feeling guilty and ashamed for something I had no control over.

"Your actions changed me, like someone turned the light out, like a part of me was taken away never to be replaced."

Crown prosecutor Tiffany Lawrence said the offending took place over 15 years, in the 1970s and 1980s, in Gladstone and Ipswich.

"At the time, their ages ranged as young as four to 11-years-old," she said.

"There was a 16-year disparity at least with every complainant, some as many as 30 years."

Fiona was four or five and her sister Gina was 10 or 11 when they were abused by the defendant.

Fiona and Gina had travelled to Gladstone from Ipswich ahead of their parents and stayed with the defendant when he placed a ball down his pants and procured Fiona to "find it".

On another occasions, the girls and their parents were camping with the defendant and others when he entered Fiona's tents and she woke to find him touching her breasts under her shirt.

Gina was sleeping while her parents were practising choir songs when the defendant entered her room.

The court heard the defendant placed Gina on top of him and rubbed his erect penis on her vagina.

On another occasion, he told her he wanted "a proper hug" and carried out the same act.

"Since your actions, I have been filled with self-loathing. This has resulted in me having a life long battle with my weight," Gina said.

"I became quite a heavy drinker to try and numb the pain and when that didn't work, I turned to drugs - lots of drugs. I became addicted to ice in my mid-20s resulting in a debt of over $20,000."

Abbey*, who was the defendant's cousin, stayed over at his home when she was abused. He lied down next to her and exposed his penis, grabbed her hand and made her touch it many times, telling her it was a "game".

Beth*, 10, was with her family travelling from Ipswich to Gladstone because her father was due to give a sermon at Sunday's service.

Ms Lawrence said Beth, from Ipswich, stayed with the defendant while her parents stayed in a motel.

She was woken in the morning with the defendant exposing his penis to her, telling her that he wanted to "play rudies" with her.

He continued abusing her until the sunlight came into the room.

Christine* was only seven or eight when her family travelled to Gladstone in 1974 and stayed with the defendant for two weeks.

She was a cousin of the defendant by marriage, but referred to him as 'uncle'.

The sexual abuse committed against her was carried out on three separate days.

First, he was in bed with her and put his hands up her shirt and pinched her nipple. Then he encouraged her to take a shower and change into her pyjamas in front of him.

Ms Lawrence said Christine got back in bed with the defendant and he put his hand down her pants, then grabbed her hand and placed it on his penis and told her to squeeze it.

On a separate occasion, while his wife showered and dressed, the defendant placed his hand down Christine's pants and touched her vagina.

Debbie*, four, was sitting with her sister and the defendant watching cartoons while on holiday and staying at the defendant's home.

"He took her hand, placed it on his penis and asked 'do you want to play with this'," Ms Lawrence said.

Debbie told the defendant no. She recalls feeling something "soft and squishy".

Elisa*, 10 or 11, drove with the defendant to the post office in Ipswich when he stayed with her family. He used the telephone at the post office to call his wife.

On the way back to Elisa's, he stopped the car, touched her breasts and told her if she "massaged them they would grow".

Ms Lawrence said the victims were in the back of the court during sentencing, supported by their mothers and other family members.

The court heard the defendant's wife was also in court, supporting her husband.

Ms Lawrence said two aggravating features were the many victims and the exploitation of his position of trust from the church and family.

Defence barrister Jordan Ahlstrand said his client, who had worked all of his life, apologised to each complainant for his offending behaviour.

Judge Michael Burnett said each of the seven victim impact statements was compelling and compassionate, showing the women were "clearly intelligent", educated and articulate people.

"I do not think they embellished," he said.

Debbie, whose sister was also abused by the defendant, told the court she lived with guilt for a long time for not rescuing her sister, whose trauma was worse than hers.

She said another 'uncle' tried to manipulate her mother to stop the girls from talking about their abuse by telling her mother the defendant was threatening suicide.

"I felt I couldn't trust my family anymore," Debbie said.

She said her mother, who had married into the family, was ostracised along with the victims.

"I am not a victim," Debbie declared.

"I am victorious."

*The victims' real names have been changed to protect their identity.

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