COVER-UP: A senior Australian Catholic is sentenced in court for concealing some church crimes

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 30 September 2020

One of Australia's most senior Marist Brothers — William Henry Wade (known as "Brother Christopher") — has made history as the first senior Catholic in Australia to plead guilty to concealing the child-sex crimes of Catholic colleagues. In the Sydney District Court on 30 September 2020, Wade (now aged 84) was sentenced for failing to provide information to police during child sex investigations into two other Marist criminals — Francis Cable (known as "Brother Romuald") and Darcy O'Sullivan (known as "Brother Dominic").

As well as these concealment charges, William Wade has previously been jailed (in 2018) for child-sex crimes which he himself committed. The 2018 case is outlined later in this Broken Rites article.

William Henry Wade was born on 27 December 1935. According to information given in previous court proceedings, Wade began training to become a Marist Brother, aged 17. After adopting the religious name "Brother Christopher", he began teaching in Marist schools when he was 19. He then began a life-long career, teaching in ten Marist Brothers schools in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Canberra between 1955 and 2000.

  • In the 1950s and 1960s, he taught at Marist schools in Sydney (Parramatta, Lidcombe, Hunters Hill, Eastwood and Randwick).
  • He was a deputy headmaster at Marist Brothers Hamilton (in Newcastle) from 1969 and became headmaster there from 1970 until 1976.
  • He then became headmaster at Marist Brothers Kogarah (in Sydney) until 1983.
  • He was later at schools in Brisbane (Marist College Ashgrove) and Canberra.

The crime of concealment is where someone "knows or believes that a serious crime has been committed, and fails, without a reasonable excuse, to inform the police".

During Australia's national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2016, the commission heard evidence from persons who said they told headmaster Brother Wade about offences committed by Brother "Romuald" Cable and Brother "Dominic" O'Sullivan. Wade told the royal commission he did not doubt most of the abuse against multiple boys happened, but he could not recall any of the details. Wade told the royal commission he could not recall ever referring any complaints about Marist Brothers staff to the Marist Brothers' headquarters. Wade admitted to the commission: "I should have at least informed the provincial [the head of the Marist order] and possibly gone to the police."

The head of the Marist Order, Brother Peter Carroll, told the royal commission the Order had failed to do anything about the sex crimes and excessive violence of many of its Brothers.

In court in 2020

In the Sydney District Court on 28 February 2020, Wade pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to provide information to police in 2014 during child sex investigations into Brother "Romuald" Cable and Brother "Dominic" O'Sullivan.

On 30 September 2020, Wade was sentenced by Acting Judge Michael Adams on the concealment charges. The judge sentenced Wade to four months imprisonment, to be served in the community.

Brother Wade's previous conviction, in 2018

In 2018, Brother William Henry ("Christopher") Wade was jailed by a court for indecent assaults which he committed against two boys in Sydney and Newcastle four decades ago.

The Wade case was related only to these two boys; these were the two victims who accepted their right to speak to police detectives. It is not known whether there are any other victims of Wade who have remained silent. And the New South Wales courts deal only with NSW crimes. Any offences reported in Brisbane or Canberra would be handled by the Queensland or Australian Capital Territory courts.

In a judge-alone trial, Wade faced three counts of indecently assaulting two boys — one boy at the Marist Brothers' Hamilton school in Newcastle in 1976 and another at the Marists' Kogarah school in Sydney in 1980. Wade pleaded not guilty.

The boys, who were 13 to 14 at the time, were assaulted by Wade in the headmaster's office. Each boy had been sent there because he felt unwell and had wanted to contact his parents.

Indecent assault is an offence which normally involves the perpetrator interfering with the victim's genitals. One of these two boys also alleged that Brother Wade placed the boy's penis into the Brother's mouth.

The victims waited many years before contacting police about the assaults, because they were worried about being believed, the court was told. The two men contacted police separately in 2015 and 2016, and the police then charged Wade.

Justice David Arnott found Wade guilty. In sentencing, the judge said that Wade relied on his authority and position "making it unlikely the victims would complain". It was "a serious breach of trust," he added.

The judge outlined Wade's career in the Marist Brothers, noting that "he devoted his life to the Brotherhood." The judge referred to testimonials which outlined Wade's high profile among Marist Brothers and the high regard held for him within education circles. But the judge also noted that Wade showed no remorse or contrition.

Judge Arnott sentenced Wade to a maximum of 18 months in jail, with the right to apply for release on parole after serving nine months behind bars.

Wade appealed against the conviction and the jailing but in May 2018 he lost the appeal and was taken to jail to serve his sentence.

After serving his jail sentence, he was charged by NSW police regarding the concealment offences.