The former Catholic priest whose crimes were the catalyst for a royal commission is guilty again

Guilty: Former Catholic priest John Denham in 2015 after he was convicted of multiple child sex offences against former students. On Wednesday he was found guilty of four offences against another victim in Taree.
Guilty: Former Catholic priest John Denham in 2015 after he was convicted of multiple child sex offences against former students. On Wednesday he was found guilty of four offences against another victim in Taree.

THE priest whose sex offences against children proved the catalyst for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been found guilty of offences against another victim.

John Sidney Denham, 77, was found guilty on Wednesday of four offences against a young boy at Taree in the late 1970s after a judge-alone trial at Port Macquarie.

The convictions mean Denham has now been found guilty of child sex crimes against 58 boys between 1968 and 1986, including students at St Pius X, Adamstown.

His victims range in age from 5 to 17.

Denham was charged in 2017 with three counts of indecently assaulting a boy aged under 12 at Taree where he worked as a parish priest in the late 1970s, and a fourth charge of buggery.

He is serving a minimum 19 years and five months’ jail sentence for current crimes and will not be eligible for parole until 2028. A sentencing hearing after he was convicted of the four latest offences will be held in Sydney in February.

Denham is one of Australia’s most notorious priests after he was convicted in 2001 of crimes against a boy, in 2010 when he was convicted of crimes against another 39 boys, in 2015 after crimes against another 17 boys and on Wednesday for crimes against the boy at Taree.

In 2015 Sydney District Court Judge Helen Syme slammed Denham whose “offending was such that sexual, sadistic abuse of vulnerable children was a lifestyle choice for him’’.

In 2016 Denham appealed against her maximum sentence of 25 years, saying it was “plainly unjust” and had given insufficient weight to his lack of offences since 1986.

Denham argued Judge Syme also erred in finding his crimes at St Pius X, Adamstown were aggravated because they were “part of a planned or organised criminal activity” that included the late school principal and priest, Tom Brennan.

But the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal rejected Denham’s arguments. He was guilty of 109 mostly cruel and violent offences at “the very high end of the scale” of child sex abuse, it found.

In July, 2012 the suicide of a former St Pius X, Adamstown student and victim of Denham’s, Belmont North fireman John Pirona, was the catalyst for the Newcastle Herald’s campaign for a royal commission on institutional child sexual abuse. 

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