By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 28 April 2017)
A few years ago, Broken Rites helped to obtain justice for schoolboys who were sexually assaulted by Marist Brother Francis William Cable (also known as "Brother Romuald") in Catholic schools in New South Wales. During Brother Romuald's life of crime, his Marist colleagues and superiors looked the other way, protecting him from the police and giving him access to more victims. Eventually, some of his victims (acting separately) began to contact Broken Rites and/or the New South Wales Police, instead of merely telling Romuald Cable's church colleagues. NSW Police detectives then found some more of his victims. As a result, "Rom" Cable was jailed in 2015 regarding 19 of his victims. On 27 April 2017, Francis Cable (now 84) appeared in court (by video-link from jail), charged with 16 additional offences (indecent assault) committed against five more victims, aged 13-14, between 1971 and 1974. These charges will come up in Newcastle Local Court again during 2017 while Cable remains in jail.
According to Broken Rites research, Francis William Cable was born on 3 May 1932. As a child, he attended a Marist Brothers school, where he was introduced to the ways of the Marist Brothers in (wink-wink) handling boys. Eventually he was selected to undergo training to become a Marist Brother. Cable was one of 23 young trainee Brothers who took their "first vows" at the Marists' training institution at Mittagong (south-west of Sydney) in 1952. These 23 trainees included two others who, like Romuald Cable, ended up as convicted criminals — Brother Kostka Chute and Brother Oswald MacNamara. How many others in this bunch were a danger to boys?
On becoming a Brother, Francis William Cable was assigned the name "Brother Romuald", in honour of an ancient saint. It was customary then to give each new Marist Brother a saintly name of this kind.
But, as shown in court, Francis Cable was no saint. And the same could be said about the colleagues and superiors who made it possible for Brother Romuald's crimes to be concealed from the police.
One of Brother Romuald Cable's first roles (in the 1950s) was on the staff of a Marist-operated boys' orphanage — St Vincent's Boys Home at Westmead in western Sydney. Broken Rites has been aware for some time that Brother Romuald Cable was targeting boys at St Vincent's Boys Home but, fortunately for Cable, none of the St Vincent's victims have contacted the police during this current investigation.
Evidence about his crimes has come from former students at Marist schools in Sydney and the Maitland-Newcastle region.
He molested boys in his office, on excursions, behind his desk (as fellow students sat nearby), and at a local swimming pool.
Eventually, in the late 1970s, Romuald Cable ceased being a Marist Brother and became a lay teacher ("Mister" Rom Cable) in Catholic schools. Ex-students of St Edmunds Christian Brothers College, Canberra, have told Broken Rites that they remember Mr "Rom" Cable teaching at that school throughout the 1980s.
On 29 January 2013 Brother "Romuald" Cable appeared in Newcastle Local court, where the first charges were officially filed. This brief hearing was in Newcastle, rather than Sydney, because the first victims were being interviewed by the Newcastle Detectives Office. After finding more victims, the detectives increased the number of indecent assault charges to 23, and added two buggery charges. The number of alleged victims increased from two to six.
After this court appearance, more former students contacted "Strike Force Georgiana" detectives in Newcastle. Some of the new allegations were from Sydney. The subsequent court dates (spread over the next two years) were regularly mentioned in the Newcastle Herald, and this prompted more Newcastle-Maitland victims to contact the detectives. At this stage, Brother Romuald's ex-students from Sydney were less likely to hear about the Newcastle court proceedings.
On 13 March 2013 the case came up for mention again in Newcastle.The number of charges against Cable was increased to 33 and the number of alleged victims was increased to 12.
When the case came up for mention again in Newcastle on 3 July 2013, the prosecutor told the court that another 13 charges would be laid against Cable, bringing the total to 46.
In mid-2013 a brief of evidence against Brother Romuald, which was then already eight centimetres deep, was served to Romuald's lawyers, the court was told.
When the case was mentioned in court in Newcastle again on 13 November 2013, there were 60 alleged offences committed against 22 boys.
During the 2013 proceedings, the prosecutors alleged that the offences occurred at several schools in the Newcastle and Sydney regions between 1960 and 1974. The allegations included:
Statements tendered to the Newcastle Local Court during the November 2013 proceedings alleged that Brother Romuald indecently assaulted students behind his desk after calling them out in front of class or ordering them to stay behind alone after lessons.
Police alleged that Brother Romuald indecently assaulted one student during a sex education class when the boy was 13.
"He did this [sex education], one-on-one, in his office," the former student said in a police statement.
"I remember about halfway through the year , it was my turn to have sex education with him."
Another former student alleged that Brother Romuald indecently assaulted him behind his desk after calling the boy to the front of the class. The student did not tell anyone because (he says) the incident allegedly occurred shortly after his father died and while his mother was struggling to cope.
By January 2014, Cable indicated that he would plead "not guilty" to all charges. Magistrate Robert Stone decided to commit Brother Francis William Romuald Cable for trial on more than 50 of the charges, involving 21 victims.
The case then went to the New South Wales District Court in Sydney, to be conducted by a judge. There was some legal argument about how to proceed. There were 21 victims and the defence wanted a separate jury for each victim (a total of 21 juries), meaning that each jury would believe that Cable had only one victim. The court eventually decided to have three juries (with a group of victims for each jury). The first jury trial was scheduled to begin on 9 March 2015, with the other trials to follow that.
On 17 March 2015, the first jury found Cable guilty of 13 indecent assault and buggery charges against two students who were grouped together in the first trial.
Two days later, on 19 March 2015, Cable made a brief appearance in court, where he entered guilty pleas to offences against another 17 students from the scheduled jury trials. This made it unnecessary to hold any further jury trials.
Francis William Cable was then locked up in remand prison to await the sentence proceedings.
On Friday 12 June 2015, pre-sentence proceedings began in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court (case number 2012/393036). This is a process in which the prosecutor and the defence make submissions about what kind of sentence should be imposed.
Cable's defence barrister told the court that Cable was not making any submission of remorse to the court.
Also, during this pre-sentence procedure, any victim has an opportunity submit a written impact statement, telling the court how his later life was affected by the abuse and by the church's cover-up. These statements are read out to the court.
The 83-year-old Brother Romuald Cable, wearing prison greens, sat in the dock as the court heard the victims' impact statements.
One victim stated that he turned into an alcoholic, as the bottle was the only way he could stop thinking of Cable's abuse. He wrote: “I would just lay in the park wishing I was dead, still hating my father for not taking me out of that school."
A man wept in the witness box, and his wife wept in court, as he spoke of his impatience, intolerance, and need for perfection in all aspects of his life as a result of being sexually abused by Romuald at age 13, after his father’s sudden death.
A victim wept as he spoke about Romuald hosting father/son camps that included a keg of beer. This victim said: ‘‘By laying on a keg he was feeding our fathers’ addictions so he could feed his own."
Francis Cable did not show any emotion as the victim impact statements were read out.
When sentencing Cable on 18 June 2015, Judge Peter Whitford gave an account of each of the charged incidents, one by one.
The judge spoke about Cable's "abhorrent" and "cruel" offences. He said Cable showed little concern about being detected, but his victims were "incredibly resilient" for coming forward to report the abuse decades after it took place.
The judge said Cable failed to understand the damage he had caused to his victims and "persisted in a course of predatory conduct over a number of years" with no signs of remorse.
The judge sentenced Cable to a period in jail for each of the charged incidents in accordance with the laws in place at the time of the offending when sentences for child sex abuse were much lighter. After making all these calculations, the judge sentenced Cable to a maximum of 16 years jail with a non-parole period of eight years. Cable is eligible to apply for parole in March 2023.
A number of Brother Romuald's victims were in court for the sentencing. One ex-student, from Marist Brothers Pagewood in Sydney, told Broken Rites later: "I was in court for the sentencing of Romuald. There were guys there from Marist Pagewood that I haven't spoken to for 47 years. Brother Romuald got his just deserves. However, he showed no emotion, no remorse, nothing. I guess he couldn't care less."
The police investigator for the Francis William Cable case in 2013-2015 was Detective Simon Grob, of the Newcastle Detectives Office.
In early 2017, police charged Cable with additional offences against more alleged victims.
The new charges were officially filed in a brief procedure in Newcastle Local Court on 27 April 2017. Cable was not required to appear on the audio visual link from Long Bay Correctional Centre.
He was charged with 16 offences against five alleged victims in the Newcastle region between 1971 and 1974. The alleged offences were mainly indecent assault of males, plus one count of soliciting a male to commit an indecent act.
Cable's solicitor did not enter any pleas at this hearing. The case will come up again for its next step later in 2017.
Broken Rites research indicates that, as well as working at the schools named in his court cases, Marist Brother "Romuald" Cable also worked in other schools, including (and this is not a complete list):
Francis William Cable left the Marist Brothers (about 1978) and was given a job by the Christian Brothers as a lay teacher (known as "Mister" Rom Cable), at St Edmunds Christian Brothers College, Canberra, where he worked for ten years before retiring in 1989.
A former Canberra student has told Broken Rites: "Mr Cable was a teacher of mine at St Edmund's College in the 1980s. I was bullied by him and I witnessed his cruelty towards other students. He was a horrible and sadistic teacher."
Broken Rites helped a Canberra Times journalist with research for two large articles about Rom Cable which appeared in that newspaper in May 2016.
Brother Romuald Cable should not be confused with any other Marist Brother in Australia who was given the saintly name "Romuald". The Marists in Australia were divided into two separate provinces: a northern province comprising New South Wales and Queensland (with its head office in Sydney); and a southern province (comprising Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia (with its head office in Melbourne). Romuald Cable belonged to the northern province. The southern province had a different Brother who, also, was given the name "Romuald". Nowadays, with so many Marist Brothers dead or in jail, the remaining Marist Brothers (largely elderly now) have been bundled into one Australia-wide province.
Broken Rites is continuing its research about Marist Brother Francis William "Romuald" Cable.