Australian Catholic Brother Sentenced To 33 Years For Sexually Abusing Boys In His Care

Bernard McGrath outside the Christchurch Courthouse before being extradited in 2014.
Bernard McGrath outside the Christchurch Courthouse before being extradited in 2014.


“A Christchurch victim of Catholic brother Bernard McGrath feels relieved the former brother will spend the next 20 years in jail.

McGrath, 70, was on Friday jailed for 33 years by a court in Sydney on 64 offences against 12 boys.

The offending occurred at the St John of God order’s Kendall Grange home in Morisset, north of Sydney, between 1978 and 1985.

 The St John of God order transferred McGrath to Kendall Grange after allegations against him surfaced at the order’s Marylands facility in Halswell, Christchurch.

McGrath was sentenced in Sydney as victims and parents wept when the judge recounted some of the offences. They applauded the sentence, the Herald Sun reported.

Marylands and St John of God Hospital in Halswell, Christchurch in 1970.
Marylands and St John of God Hospital in Halswell, Christchurch in 1970.

Due to a minimum period of imprisonment before being eligible for parole, the former brother, who once studied to be a priest, will be 88 before his earliest release date.

He was extradited from New Zealand to Australia in 2014 to face more than 250 charges.

A former Marylands resident, who is now 57 and living in Christchurch, said the sentence handed down in Sydney was a relief.

The man, who spent 30 years in and out of jail before going straight in 2007, was a complainant in a 2006 trial in Christchurch at which McGrath was charged with assaulting and sodomising him.

“I’m glad he got locked up again and it’s all over,” the man said.

The offending had turned him into an angry boy who was too scared to tell anyone, he said.

After Marylands he was constantly in trouble because “I didn’t care due to the things that happened to me”.

McGrath left the order in the late 90s. In 1993 he was jailed for three years for offences at Marylands and the Hebron Trust, a learning centre for street kids.

More complaints surfaced in 2002 and, after the trial in Christchurch in 2006, he was sentenced to five year’s jail on 21 offences.

He served about half the sentence and in 2012, when the Australian charges were laid, was living on tea plantation in the highlands of Sri Lanka.

On Friday, Judge Sarah Huggett detailed several offences including McGrath raping a boy, leaving him bleeding and limping. On another occasion the boy vomited after choking when McGrath forced him to have oral sex.

He rubbed the boy’s face in the vomit, before ordering the sobbing child to clean up the mess.

“He’ll die in jail,” the mother of one of his victims, told the Herald Sun.

The judge described McGrath as a predator who moved from victim to victim, often in circumstances where the risk of detection was high, and in some cases in the company of other brothers.

McGrath was guilty of “deliberate, determined and to varying degrees predetermined” offences against children, some with intellectual, social, academic and behavioural difficulties, Judge Huggett said.

The court was told McGrath joined the order in 1966, when he was 18, despite wanting to be a vet. His father, who felt his son was a failure because he did not complete training to be a Catholic priest, filled out the paperwork for him to become a St John of God brother.

Judge Huggett said she accepted McGrath’s evidence that he was indecently assaulted as a child by at least one neighbour and another man.”

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