After 30 years, a Christian Brother is convicted for a child-sex crime

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article posted on 27 March 2019

A member of the Catholic order of Christian Brother (Brian McHugh) was convicted in court in August 2018 (aged 69) after pleading guilty to indecently assaulting a nine-year-old boy at an Adelaide school in the 1980s. Brother Brian McHugh belonged to a Perth-based province of Christian Brothers which supplied Brothers to a number of Catholic schools in South Australia and Western Australia.

The indecent-assault charge, relating to an Adelaide school, was heard in the Adelaide Magistrates Court. The court was told that the offence occurred in the school’s sports shed, where Brother Anthony McHugh (then the hockey coach) had sent the boy as a punishment.

The prosecutor said Brother McHugh assaulted the boy from behind.

“McHugh forced him to remain in a bent-over position … (the boy) could hear his heavy breathing but McHugh did not say anything,” the prosecutor said.

“The force of McHugh’s assault was so great it brought (the boy) to his tiptoes … he felt worthless, vulnerable and ‘like nothing’.”

McHugh was represented in court by a senior barrister (a Queen's Council) who said McHugh was highly regarded by friends and the Christian Brothers. The QC urged the court to act “as mercifully as possible”.

In sentencing McHugh, the magistrate (Ms Koula Kossiavelos) said the boy suffered ongoing trauma into adulthood, resulting in a loss of self-confidence and a failure to reach his full potential in life. She said he continues to feel “put down” and “humiliated” by the indecent assault.

Magistrate Kossiavelos imposed an eight-month jail term, suspended on condition of a 12-months good behaviour bond. She declined a police request to place McHugh on the sex-offenders register.

When he appeared in court, Brian Anthony McHugh was living in Western Australia. The magistrate ordered South Australia Police to pay the cost of McHugh's air travel between WA and SA to attend court.