A Christian Brother is jailed for raping a boy at a Catholic school

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted 6 October 2018

Christian Brother John Francis Tyrrell has had a long career as a Brother in Catholic schools in Melbourne and regional Victoria. in February 2016, the Christian Brothers celebrated the 60th anniversary of Tyrrell's consecration as a Brother. Two years later, in April 2018, Brother Tyrrell (then aged 79) was sentenced by a court to a minimum of six and a half years in jail for repeatedly raping a boy at St Joseph's College in Geelong, Victoria, in the 1960s. This victim says the school covered up the abuse at the time. The cover-up has caused lasting damage to the victim's life but eventually the victim (now aged in his sixties) spoke to child-abuse detectives in the Victoria Police. Thus, this victim has managed to obtain justice for himself. Brother Tyrrell also worked at other prominent schools, including being in charge of the junior school at St Kevin's College in Toorak, Melbourne.

Broken Rites understands that some of Brother Tyrrell's other positions, during his teaching career, included: St Peter and St Paul's primary school in South Melbourne; St Alipius primary in Ballarat; and St Thomas's in Clifton Hill, Melbourne. (This is not a complete list).

During Brother Tyrrell's career, the Christian Brothers in Australia were grouped in four separate provinces, and Brother Tyrrell belonged to the Victoria-Tasmania province.

Some background

John Francis Tyrrell was born in the late 1930s. Broken Rites understands that, when he was a schoolboy, Tyrrell was a pupil of the Christian Brothers at Melbourne's Parade College, where he became accustomed to the ways of the Brothers. These Brothers would customarily watch out for any suitable boy who might aspire to eventually become a Brother.

John Tyrrell evidently became elevated to the rank of a Christian Brother in 1956, when he was aged about 17.

0n 18 February 2016 (according to an official announcement), Brothers and friends gathered at the Christian Brothers headquarters (the Treacy Centre) in Parkville, Melbourne, to celebrate 60 years of "consecrated living" for four Brothers, including John Tyrrell. Broken Rites understands that, at the time of the 2016 celebration, Brother Tyrrell was living with other Brothers at a Christian Brothers retirement address in Thornbury, Melbourne.

Around this same year, 2016, Victoria Police detectives were investigating a complaint which they had received from a former pupil of St Joseph's College in Geelong, alleging that he had been sexually abused by Brother John Tyrrell in 1965-1966. This alleged victim, now aged in his sixties, signed a written police statement which the detectives then filed at a Magistrates Court. After a preliminary hearing by the magistrate, John Tyrrell was committed for trial, which would be conducted by a judge in a higher court, the Melbourne County Court.

Jury trial

In March 2018 (after 62 years as a Brother), Brother John Francis Tyrrell appeared in Melbourne's County Court, facing 14 charges, including buggery and indecent assault, committed against a boy at Geelong’s St Joseph’s College in 1965 and 1966. Tyrrell contested the charges with a plea of not guilty, thus necessitating a jury trial.

The alleged victim was aged between 10 and 12 at the time of the alleged assaults, which (according to the victim) happened on numerous occasions over that two-year period.

The prosecutor told the court that the boy’s mother had organised special classes with Brother Tyrrell after school for her son, who she felt needed extra help at school.

However, the private after-school meetings turned abusive when Brother Tyrrell repeatedly assaulted the boy sexually and physically, the prosecutor alleged. The offences occurred in a room near Brother Tyrell's classroom, in a science storage room and in the school hall.

The prosecutor said that eventually the boy told senior Brothers he was no longer going to put up with Brother Tyrrell "fucking me" but the boy was reprimanded by senior Brothers and was told he was going to hell. The boy then left the school and never went back, the prosecutor said.

The jury found Tyrrell guilty on ten of the charges (four counts of buggery and six counts of indecent assault).

Victim impact statement

As usual in this kind of court case, the court invited the victim to submit a victim-impact statement to the judge, demonstrating how the whole matter had affected his later teenage years and his adult life.

The victim wrote (in his impact statement) that the abuse cost him his faith, and he suffered from recurring mental torment and a sense of shame.

He was unable to trust anyone or have close friends, and could not stand or live near anyone wearing a religious collar.

"If these crimes had not been committed on me ... my life would have been free," the victim wrote. "Who knows what I might have achieved."


On 26 April 2018, Tyrrell appeared in court again for sentencing.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Trevor Wraight said Tyrrell showed no remorse about his offences.

Judge Wraight accepted that additional assaults also occurred on occasions not covered by the charges.

"You were often alone with (the victim) ... and sexually abused him within various locations throughout the school," the judge told Tyrrell. "You were an adult in a position of authority. You were a Christian Brother. It is self-evident these events were very degrading for a young boy."

Judge Wraight accepted that Tyrrell could die behind bars but said the offences warranted a substantial prison term, despite Tyrrell's age and health problems.

In calculating Tyrrell's sentence, the judge was required to consider the number and seriousness of the ten offences (buggery and indecent assault attract different jail terms). Judge Wraight sentenced John Francis Tyrrell to a total of eleven years' jail. Tyrrell must serve six-and-a-half years behind bars before being eligible to apply for parole.

When John Tyrrell will eventually be released from jail, the normal custom of the Christian Brothers will be for the Brothers to continue looking after Tyrrell again, as a long-time member of their Order.