A Marist Brother in court in 2018 on charges regarding a prominent Sydney school

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated on 26 January 2018

New South Wales police have charged Marist Brother John O'Brien, now aged 77, over child-sex offences allegedly committed about 50 years ago at St Joseph's College, a prominent boarding school in Hunters Hill, Sydney. The case is due to begin its preliminary procedures in court in early 2018. The court's case number is 2017/00375969.

The allegations against Brother John Patrick O'Brien were originally raised at Australia's recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The allegations were then investigated by detectives from the New South Wales State Crime Command’s Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad. A special unit, "Strike Force Gallagher", was assigned to do the investigation.

On 12 December 2017, following extensive inquiries, Strike Force Gallagher detectives charged Brother John O'Brien with:

  • nine counts of inciting an act of indecency; and
  • four counts of indecent assault.

Police will allege in court in 2018 that the offences involved four students and occurred while Brother O'Brien worked at St Joseph's College, Hunters Hill, in Sydney between 1966 and 1970.

After being charged by police, Brother O'Brien was given notive that he must appear in Tweed Heads Local Court (in northern NSW, near the Queensland border) on a certain date in early 2018. (This first hearing is an administrative procedure, during which the charges will be officially filed with a magistrate who would then fix a date and court for a second administrative mention.)

In a recent public statement about the Strike Force investigation, the NSW Police said:

"If any member of the public has information in relation to Strike Force Gallagher, they should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/

"Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. We remind people they should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

"Police encourage any person who has been a victim of any kind of sexual violence, no matter how long ago the incident occurred, to contact police. Reports can be made at any police station."

Brother John Patrick O'Brien (born on 31 March 1940) entered the Marist Brothers order after he had been a pupil at a Marist school. After working at St Joseph's College in Sydney, he moved to the Newcastle region to take up a senior position at the Marist Brothers Hamilton College from 1971. Later, from 1981 to 1986, he was principal of a Marist Brothers' school in Kogarah, Sydney.