A Marist Brother goes to jail, aged 82, after losing a court appeal

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 11 May 2018

One of Australia's most senior Marist Brothers — William Henry Wade (known as "Brother Christopher") — has had a long career, working in ten Marist schools in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and Canberra between 1955 and 2000. In 2017, Wade was convicted and jailed by a court for indecent assaults which he committed against two boys in Sydney and Newcastle four decades ago. Wade appealed against the conviction and the jailing but on 11 May 2018 (aged 82) he lost the appeal and was taken to jail.

The Wade case is related only to these two victims; these are the two victims who accepted their right to speak to police detectives. It is not known whether there are any other victims of Wade who have remained silent. And the New South Wales courts deal only with NSW crimes. Any offences reported in Brisbane or Canberra would be handled by the Queensland or Australian Capital Territory courts.

William Henry Wade was born on 27 December 1935. According to information given at his trial in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court in 2017, Wade began training to become a Marist Brother, aged 17. After adopting the religious name "Brother Christopher", he began teaching in Marist schools when he was 19.

  • In the 1950s and 1960s, he taught at Marist schools in Sydney (Parramatta, Lidcombe, Hunters Hill, Eastwood and Randwick).
  • He was a deputy headmaster at Marist Brothers Hamilton (in Newcastle) from 1969 and became headmaster there from 1970 until 1976.
  • He then became headmaster at Marist Brothers Kogarah (in Sydney) until 1983.
  • He was later at schools in Brisbane (Marist College Ashgrove) and Canberra.

In a judge-alone trial in 2017, Wade faced three counts of indecently assaulting two boys — one boy at the Hamilton school in 1976 and another at the Kogarah school in 1980. Wade pleaded not guilty.

The boys, who were 13 to 14 at the time, were assaulted in the headmaster's office.

Each boy had been sent there because he felt unwell and had wanted to contact his parents.

Indecent assault is an offence which normally involves the perpetrator interfering with the victim's genitals. One of these two boys also alleged that Brother Wade placed the boy's penis into the Brother's mouth.

Justice David Arnott found Wade guilty.

In sentencing, the judge said that Wade relied on his authority and position "making it unlikely the victims would complain". It was "a serious breach of trust," he added.

The judge outlined Wade's career in the Marist Brothers, noting that "he devoted his life to the Brotherhood."

The judge referred to testimonials which outlined Wade's high profile among Marist Brothers and the high regard held for him within education circles.

But the judge also noted that Wade showed no remorse or contrition.

The victims waited many years before contacting police about the assaults, because they were worried about being believed, the court was told.

The two men contacted police separately in 2015 and 2016, and the police then charged Wade.

Sentence and appeal

Judge Arnott sentenced Wade to a maximum of 18 months in jail, with the right to apply for release on parole after serving nine months behind bars.

Wade's lawyers gave notice of an appeal against the conviction. They also applied for bail pending the outcome of the appeal.

On 22 November 2017, after three weeks in jail, Wade was released on bail until his case would reach the appeal court.

Appeal court, March 2018

Three judges in the NSW Appeal Court began considering Wade's appeal in March 2018. Wade’s barrister told the appeal court that Judge Arnott did not make a finding in terms of Wade’s credibility, and did not say why he did not believe Wade although he was “obliged to state in his reasons… why he did not believe the accused’s evidence”. But barrister Belinda Baker, for the Crown, said if there was an error in the case it was “simply an error to make an express finding that the accused’s evidence was rejected”, after Judge Arnott accepted the victims’ evidence about what had occurred. Ms Baker told the court there had been no substantial miscarriage of justice.

Appeal lost

On 11 May 2018, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in Sydney rejected Wade’s argument that he was “entitled to know” why District Court Judge David Arnott accepted the evidence of the students at Marist schools in Hamilton and Kogarah. The Appeal Court also rejected Wade’s denial of the offences.

Appeal Court justices Robert Hulme, Monika Schmidt and Peter Hamill found no miscarriage of justice after Judge Arnott did not state clearly that he rejected Wade’s denial of the offences, but gave extensive reasons for accepting the former students’ evidence beyond reasonable doubt.

Justice Hulme found there was “no merit” in Wade’s assertion that Judge Arnott failed to give reasons for rejecting a psychologist’s evidence about memory, after both former students were challenged about aspects of their evidence.

It was “rather telling” that lawyers for Wade could provide no examples of the psychologist’s evidence that Judge Arnott had failed to take into account, Justice Hulme found.

The appeal court also rejected Wade’s argument that an 18 month sentence, with a minimum term of nine months, was manifestly excessive. His earliest release date is January 19, 2019.

Off to jail

After the Appeal Court handed down its decision, William Henry Wade was removed from the court in custody and was taken to jail to begin his sentence.