Gerard Vincent Byrnes

Posted: October 20, 2012 by Serendipity in NSW, Photo, Queensland
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No appeal for pedophile teacher

Peter Hardwick | 12th March 2011

ARGUABLY Toowoomba’s most despised individual, pedophile school teacher Gerard Vincent Byrnes, has escaped serving any more time in jail.

The Court of Appeal in Brisbane yesterday rejected an Attorney General’s appeal against the leniency of the sentence handed down in Toowoomba District Court to the 61-year-old who admitted 44 sexual offences against girl students aged just nine and 10.

Byrnes’ offences included the rape of six girls in his care and the ongoing grooming of one child.

Many of the offences had occurred in the classroom environment at a Toowoomba Catholic primary school and at times in front of other students.

Adding to the abhorrence of his crimes, Byrnes had at the time been the school’s designated Child Protection Officer.

He was sentenced to 10 years jail, a sentence then Attorney General Cameron Dick appealed claiming the penalty was inadequate for such serious offending in Brynes’ position as the victims’ class teacher.

Tony Moynihan SC, for the Attorney General’s appeal, argued the sentence was inadequate for a “gross breach of trust and abuse of power”.

The appeal sought to increase the jail term up to 15 years.

However, in a unanimous judgement brought down yesterday and published on the Courts Queensland website, Chief Justice Paul de Jersey, Justice John Muir and Justice Margaret White dismissed the appeal, finding the sentence handed down by Judge Sarah Bradley was “supported by the comparable sentences” handed down in the past for like cases.

The Court of Appeal said due leniency had to be applied when sentencing offenders who admitted their guilt.

The ruling quoted passages from a previous judgement, which stated:

“An offender who pleads guilty saves the community the cost of a trial.

“In some kinds of case, particularly offences involving young persons, the offender’s pleas of guilty avoids the serious harm that may be done by requiring the victim to describe yet again, and thus relive, their part in the conduct that is to be punished.”

Byrnes was declared at sentence a serious violent offender, meaning he has to serve at least 80% of his 10-year term.

However, having served almost two years pre-sentence custody by the time he was sentenced, he will be eligible for release from prison in 2016.

10-year sentence sticks for teacher who molested schoolgirls

A TOOWOOMBA teacher who molested 13 schoolgirls escaped a higher sentence when the Court of Appeal today refused an application by the Attorney General to increase his 10 years jail time.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Tony Moynihan, SC, who appeared for the then Attorney General Cameron Dick, had asked Gerard Vincent Byrnes sentence be set aside and one of up to 15 years imposed.

Mr Moynihan said the 10-year sentence failed to reflect the gravity of the offence, it failed to act as a sufficient deterrent, and the sentencing judge gave too much weight to mitigating factors.

He said it was an abuse of power and the 10-year jail sentence did not adequately denounce the behaviour or mark deterrence.

However, Michael Byrne, QC, for Byrnes, said the 10-year sentence was adequate because there were substantial mitigating factors in his clients favour including his early plea and genuine remorse in writing an apology to his victims.

Mr Byrne said his client had led a blemish free life and been a productive member of the community.

In an unanimous judgment the Court of Appeal dismissed the Attorney General’s appeal.

Justice John Muir said the mitigating circumstances, in particular Byrnes’ early guilty plea and his admissions to police, when combined with comparable cases relied on by the Attorney General, an increase in sentence was not warranted.

He said comparable sentences used by Mr Byrne had supported a 10-year sentence.

The Chief Justice Paul de Jersey and Justice Margaret White agreed the appeal should be dismissed.

In the District Court in Toowoomba last year, Byrnes, 61, pleaded guilty to 44 child-sex offences including maintaining a sexual relationship with a child, rape, and indecent dealing between 2007 and 2008.

Byrnes was classed as an automatic serious violent offender and he must serve eight years before he is eligible for parole.

He has already served nearly two years in pre-sentence custody and will be eligible for parole in 2016.

Byrnes, who had worked in Catholic schools in NSW and Queensland since 1970 as both teacher and principal, admitted abusing 13 girls aged between eight and ten, sometimes in front of his grade 4 class.

The court heard Byrnes had stopped abusing one girl as he mistakenly thought she had reported him but the girl who had actually reported him continued to be molested.


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