A Christian Brother, now 80, is facing charges in Melbourne from 55 years ago

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 6 June 2019

Christian Brother John Laidlaw has had a lifelong career, teaching in Catholic schools around Australia, especially in the state of Victoria. In 2019, aged 80, he is facing court in Melbourne charged with having committed sexual offences against some of his Victorian students from 1963 onwards. Brother Laidlaw has also taught in Adelaide and Perth but this court case is confined to Victorian complaints.

The matter has been investigated by Victoria Police detectives from the Sano Taskforce (in Spencer Street, Docklands, Melbourne).

The charges were filed at the Melbourne Magistrates Court in late 2019. After a preliminary hearing, the magistrate referred the case on to a higher court, the Melbourne County Court, where the case would be handled by a judge.

The case had another procedure in April 2019 and the main process is scheduled to be held at the Melbourne County Court in mid-2019.

The County Court's case-number for Laidlaw is: CR-18-02082.

The case involves multiple ex-students, from Christian Brothers schools in Melbourne and the Victorian city of Warrnambool. The alleged victims are now mature-age adults.

Brother Laidlaw, now of Adelaide, has been charged with seven sexual offences allegedly committed between 1963 and 1984, according to court documents. The charges include: five counts of indecent assault; and two offences of sexual penetration of a person aged between 16 and 18 years under his care and supervision.

Two of the indecent assault charges are alleged to have been committed in Warrnambool, one during 1963 and the other in 1966. Other offences were alleged to have been committed in the Melbourne region including at Toorak in 1976-77, at St Kilda in 1981 and at Bundoora in 1984.

Meanwhile, the detectives are continuing their inquiries.

Court documents give the defendant's birth-name as John Sutherland Laidlaw.

Some background

Broken Rites has researched some background about Brother John Laidlaw in various documents and publications. He was born in 1939. He entered a Christian Brothers novitiate in January 1956 to begin training to become a Brother.

In February 1958 he began teaching at a Christian Brothers college in St George's Terrace, Perth. In 1960 he was transferred to Victoria, where he taught at a Christian Brothers school in Brunswick (an inner-suburb of Melbourne). After six months at Brunswick he was transferred to teach in Devonport in Tasmania.

During the mid-1960s he was teaching at Christian Brothers College in Warrnambool (in Victoria's south-west).

In the early 1970s, he was a middle-school teacher and dormitory master at St Patrick's College, Ballarat, Victoria.

He later taught at several Melbourne schools, including St Kevin's College in Toorak, St Joseph's in South Melbourne, Parade College in Bundoora and CBC St Kilda.

In 1986-1988, he was at two Christian Brothers schools in South Australia (at Gilles Plains and Thebarton) before returning to Melbourne (at St Kevin's College Toorak).

As well as teaching the usual subjects in his various schools, Brother Laidlaw was also involved in sports coaching and choir work.

After retiring from teaching, Brother John Laidlaw resided in Adelaide, working in a hospital facility assisting people with disabilities.

Brother John Laidlaw was one of eight Christian Brothers who were honoured at a jubilee celebration in Melbourne because they had spent 50 or 60 years working in the Brothers in Victoria.