A former Marist College Canberra teacher and convicted paedophile, who sexually abused two boys at the school in the 1980s, has avoided more time behind bars as one of the victims told of the "silent trail of destruction" left by his crimes.
Gregory Joseph Sutton, 65, pleaded guilty to two charges of indecent assault and was handed a suspended jail sentence of two years and two months in the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Justice John Burns said Sutton's offences were "a gross breach of trust" that had a long-term effect on his victims and their families.
One of those men reflected on the lost innocence, shattered trust and lifetime of hurt caused by the abuse in a powerful victim impact statement read in court by prosecutor Trent Hickey.
"You preyed on my curiosity and took advantage of my trust," the victim wrote.
"As a child, I did not know any better, I did not know you were an imposter, preying on the vulnerable and grooming people like me for your own satisfaction.
"Like many other communities you would hurt us and move on, leaving a trail of silent destruction, never getting caught as we were too young to understand what damage you had caused."
The man said Sutton's actions pushed him away from his mother and father, confused his understanding of sexuality and relationships, and destroyed his confidence in parenting his children.
"You sexually abused me. I am a survivor," he wrote.
"I do not hate you, nor do I wish harm on you. I have forgiven you. You just now need to forgive yourself."
The court heard Sutton had already spent more than 12 years in a NSW prison for 67 sex crimes committed against children.
Prosecutors said those offences included 23 involving sexual intercourse, 46 indecent assaults, seven acts of indecency and one gross act of indecency.
Sutton had been arrested and extradited from the United States in 1995 to face charges arising from those offences. At that time, he admitted abuse against many victims, including numerous boys in the ACT.
He thought the territory offences would have been dealt with at that time.
But Sutton did not face justice for the two charges of indecent assault until the territory in 2013 removed a limitation that required some child victims to report crimes within 12 months of their occurrence.
He was one of four men police charged with fresh offences in 2016 as part of a police investigation into historical child sexual abuse in territory schools.
Sutton said in court he understood he had been a in a position of power over his young victims, and that he used the children for his own sexual gratification.
"I accept that unreservedly and I live with that every day," he said.
Sutton acknowledged his offending caused victims' great trauma, betrayed their trust and had a ripple effect on them, their families and children, the school and the church.
He denied he was still attracted to young boys.
"I don't have any fantasies or tendencies. I don't eye, or view, or groom."
His lawyer, Greg Walsh, said Sutton had admitted his wrongdoing and successfully rehabilitated.
Mr Walsh urged the judge to "sentence this man as he is today, not as the man he then was".
"As one of the most notorious paedophiles in NSW, prison would be difficult."
Mr Hickey said no sentence other than a term of imprisonment would be appropriate.
"This man was a teacher. Parents took their children to school and expected they would be taught, not preyed upon.
"He clearly is not of good character, he's entitled to no leniency because of that."
Justice Burns was satisfied Sutton understood what motivated his offending and it was unlikely he would reoffend in a similar manner.
The judge said Sutton had served an "onerous" prison term that had largely been spent "in strict isolation".
He took into account the significant delay in the offences coming to court, stressing that was not the fault of the prosecution or victims.
Justice Burns said he had no doubt Sutton would have pleaded guilty to the offences in 1995, had that been possible at the time.
A statement detailing the allegations against Sutton, tendered in court at his committal in August, said on one occasion, Sutton placed a chair in front of his classroom door before he approached one of the boys and touched his genitals.
Sutton then said: "You'd better not tell anyone what happened ... This is our secret."
He touched the same boy inappropriately on two more occasions in the classroom in the days that followed. The third time the boy allegedly said to him: "No, this is – it's just not right," before pulling away and telling Sutton, "No".
Past abuse by Sutton at schools associated with the Catholic Marist Brothers organisation, including Marist College Canberra, was closely examined during the ACT hearings of the child sex abuse royal commission.
The royal commission found the organisation moved Sutton to different schools when it received complaints he had inappropriately touched children.
The commission found Marist Brothers' actions enabled Sutton to continue to access children throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Marist Brothers Australia apologised for the pain and suffering endured by Sutton's victims.
"It is a matter of profound sorrow and regret that children were abused by someone responsible for their care and safety.
"They had the right to expect every protection and safety and they were tragically let down.
Brother Peter Carroll said he was moved by the forgiveness expressed in court by one of the victims.
"I hope that the process of justice provides some path towards healing for all affected."
Marist College Canberra apologised for abuse suffered by college students during the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s at a healing ceremony in November last year.
The three other men charged over institutional child sex abuse in the ACT remain before the courts.
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