A Christian Brother is jailed for offences he committed 40 years ago

  • By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 2 January 2020)

For several decades, Christian Brother Peter Nicholas Lennox worked in various Catholic schools in Sydney and in regional New South Wales. In a Sydney court on 29 March 2019, he was jailed for sexual crimes which he committed against boys at two of those schools in the 1970s — at Christian Brothers in Manly (now known as St Paul's Catholic College) and at St Patrick's College in Goulburn (now known as Trinity Catholic College). After Lennox finishes this jail term, the prosecutors intend to bring him to court again in 2020 regarding some additional charges.

The police investigation of Brother Lennox began after a forrmer student (from the Manly school) had a private interview with a member of Australia's national Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. The Royal Commission advised this former student that he was entitled to discuss the matter with NSW Police detectives. An investigation was then begun by detectives based at Manly (within the Northern Beaches Local Area Command).

Meanwhile, another former student (from the Goulburn school) spoke to the Goulburm Detectives Office. This matter was then added to the Sydney detectives' investigation.

The police investigation was conducted by Detective Senior Constable Adam Vickery, of the Northern Beaches Local Area Command, Manly Police Station.

Detectives arrested Peter Nicholas Joseph Lennox on 10 November 2014 at a residence, where he had been living in retirement, in Cootamundra NSW. Detectives executed a search warrant of Lennox's living quarters and seized documents and computers which later underwent further examination. Lennox was then taken to a nearby police station, where he was interviewed, before being charged with indecent assaults on boys. These offences were allegedly committed between 1973 and 1976, when the boys were aged between 13 and 15.

In court documents, Lennox's date of birth is given as 14 June 1939.

On 1 December 2014, Peter Nicholas Joseph Lennox appeared in a country Local Court for a brief administrative procedure, in which charges were officially filed with a magistrate. The case was then transferred to Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court, where preliminary hearings began in 2015.

In 2016 and 2017, the church defence lawyer claimed in court that Peter Lennox was "not well enough" to face trial. The lawyer tendered medical reports to the court. However, the court dismissed these arguments and Lennox was ordered to stand trial. Lennox was granted bail pending the trial.

In October 2018, a jury trial began in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court. Lennox pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of indecent assault involving four boys at the Manly school and one boy at the Goulburn school.

On 15 November 2018, the jury decided that there is sufficient evidence to return a guilty verdict regarding two of the four Manly boys plus a guilty verdict regarding the boy from Goulburn.

On 15 February 2019, a pre-sentence procedure was held in which the prosecutor and the defence lawyer made submissions to the judge regarding what kind of sentence should be imposed on Lennox.

On 29 March 2019, Judge L Flannery sentenced Lennox to 12 months imprisonment with a non-parole period of six months. With good behavior, he could be released after six months behind bars.

The Director of Public Prosecution is planning to have another court trial for Lennox for five counts on which the 2018 jury did not reach a verdict. This trial is scheduled to be held in 2020 after Lennox is released from his 2019 jail sentence.

Some background from Broken Rites about the two schools

1. The school at MANLY:
A website of St Paul's Catholic College, Manly, says: "St Paul’s Catholic College Manly was formerly known as Christian Brothers College, Manly. . . During the latter part of the 1970s under the supervision of the Principal, Br P Lennox, major College extensions were undertaken. In 1982 the Christian Brothers withdrew and the first lay Principal was appointed."

2. The school at GOULBURN:
St Patrick's College Goulburn was formerly a boys-only boarding school, conducted by the Christian Brothers. According to a history book about this school, the Brothers’ involvement at St Patrick’s College was winding down by the mid-1990s. In 2000, the boys' college merged with a Catholic girls school, Marian College, to become Trinity Catholic College.

This court case of Peter Nicholas Lennox will also be of interest to former students from Lennox's other schools, which included (this is not a complete list):

  • St Mary's Cathedral College, Sydney, 1960s;
  • Edmund Rice College, Wollongong, 1982-83; and
  • Trinity Senior High School (now incorporated into Kildare Catholic College), Wagga Wagga, early 1990s.