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Broken Rites Australia helps victims of church-related
(Article updated 8 February 2012)
In the early 1970s, Brother Brian Cairns taught primary students at Catholic schools in Queensland, including:
He then worked (as Mister Cairns) at:
ChargedIn April 1984 Brian Dennis Cairns was charged with sexual offences against 12 male pupils aged between 10 and 12 years.
Before the case reached the Brisbane District Court, a group of parents from one of Cairns’s schools asked Queensland‘s Minister for Justice to restrict publication of the court proceedings. The then Justice Minister, Mr Harper, pointed out that, in accordance with establish practice in child-abuse cases, child-abuse victims would not be publicly identified. However, he said, there would be no restriction on publishing the name of the accused.
JailedIn the Brisbane District Court in May 1985, Brian Dennis Cairns was found guilty of three counts of attempted sodomy, eight counts of gross indecency and 32 counts of indecent treatment of schoolboys. The offences extended over several years, including when Cairns was headmaster.
Judge Kimmins said that the maximum penalty for attempted sodomy was seven years imprisonment. He sentenced Cairns to seven years jail on each of the attempted sodomy charges, three years on each of the gross indecency charges and five years on each of the indecent treatment charges, to be served concurrently.
In his sentencing remarks, the judge said: "Parents are required by law to send children to school. They are thus forced to hand over their children into the care of others for a substantial portion of each year in the child’s life.
"There is thus a high duty on all education bodies to exercise extreme vigilance, to see that no person of abnormal sexual inclination is in a position to deal with, interfere with, or perhaps pervert the children under his or her control."
To protect the privacy of the children, Judge Kimmins prohibited publication of the evidence. He also prohibited publication of submissions by the barristers who appeared for the prosecution and the defence.
However, as allowed by law, the name of Brian Dennis Cairns appeared in media reports of the case, published the next day.
More detailsVictims have told Broken Rites that Brian Cairns used to be friendly and polite towards the parents, who probably did not suspect what was going on behind the scenes. Victims tended to remain silent, because of embarrassment or because they were frightened of Brian Cairns or because their parents were "loyal" Catholics.
One ex-pupil (from St Laurence’s College in 1971) has told Broken Rites that he complained about Brother Cairns to his mother but she did not understand that such a serious thing could happen in a Catholic school and therefore she did nothing about it.
Another ex-pupil (from St Columban’s, Albion, in 1972) has told Broken Rites: “I was too scared and humiliated to ever speak out about this. My parents would never have believed me.”
At St John Vianney’s school, in Brisbane's Manly, where he was the principal in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cairns had supreme authority in the school.
Further actionAs well as the victims who agreed to help police in the 1985 criminal court case, there is still scope for other former pupils of Cairns to obtain justice. It is still possible for victims to have a chat with detectives from the Queensland Police child & sexual assault investigation unit, telephone 07 3364 6430.
In 2003, and again in 2011 and 2012, some of Cairns’s victims (from four of his schools) have approached Broken Rites (separately), seeking advice about initiating civil out-of-court action against the church authorities. A prominent legal firm in Canberra, which acts for victims throughout Australia, is now considering what can be done in this matter.