Closure for victims: Yesterday’s court proceeding marks the end of dealing with charges against former Scots PGC College teachers.
Closure for victims: Yesterday’s court proceeding marks the end of dealing with charges against former Scots PGC College teachers.

Former teacher jailed

A VICTIM of serial child sex offender and former Scots PGC College teacher Anthony Bruce Spencer has spoken out about the ordeal which scarred his life, but is optimistic about a new start as his tormentor pleaded guilty and was sentenced in the Brisbane District Court yesterday.

It has taken more than 40 years, but former Scots students John Paterson and three other victims have a form of closure after Spencer was sentenced to three-and-a-half years behind bars after pleading guilty to three charges of indecent treatment of a boy under 14 years and six charges of indecent assault.

“He’s in prison where he belongs,” Mr Paterson said.

Mr Paterson was unable to attend the court hearing in Brisbane but said the ruling was an ending to a “difficult” two-year court battle.

Spencer will be eligible for parole on March 4 next year.

“I’m delighted it’s all over, but he’ll serve less than 25 per cent of a three-and-a-half-year sentence,” he said.

“But I feel like a Year 12 student graduating, 40 years later. I want to sleep. Now I just want to close my eyes for a while.”

The former Scots teacher, now 64 years old, sat emotionless in the dock in Brisbane yesterday, wearing a dark-grey suit, only leaning his balding head forward when the court heard he was aged 23 to 27 years old when the offences were committed.

Crown Public Prosecutor Belinda Merrin said Spencer, while a teacher at the school between 1968 and 1971, lured four boys aged 11 to 16 years to his on-campus residence under the pretence of sport and molested them.

The prosecutor said the victim-impact statements outlined how they spoke of a “gross betrayal of trust”.

“He abused that trust for his own sexual gratification,” Prosecutor Merrin said.

The prosecutor said Spencer’s molestation of the boys included the performance and receiving of oral sex and masturbation.

The court heard Spencer left Warwick at the end of 1973 and went to New South Wales, where he committed another sex offence involving a 14-year-old student while a teacher at All Saints school in Bathurst.

The prosecutor said the 64-year-old was released on parole last week after serving nine months of a year’s sentence for that offence.

“The behaviour continued when he left Scots and went to New South Wales,” the prosecutor said.

Spencer’s recidivism has for years haunted Mr Paterson.

“I wish I had done it (told someone about the sexual abuse) as a 14-year-old,” Mr Paterson said.

“I will always think I could’ve stopped him from doing it to the others, like the children in New South Wales.

“This all started with my letter to the editor at the Daily News, then people came forward to me. I was surprised and horrified to learn I wasn’t the only one.

“This had major ramifications in my life – if anyone has gone through something like this you have to deal with it. It never goes away and it’s a long process.

“While you’re preoccupied with life you’re okay, but when you hit a bump it all comes back.

“You never get over it – it was a betrayal of trust.”

Mr Paterson has not ruled out a compensation claim against the college.

Judge Michael Noud said it was a serious case which had long-term consequences for the victims, but acknowledged Spencer’s efforts to rehabilitate himself through counselling.

One report detailed Spencer was not a “high risk” to the community, however the prosecutor quickly pointed out, “The report doesn’t say he is no risk”.

Spencer’s defence counsel did not dispute any of the facts as outlined by the prosecution.

The Daily News first revealed allegations made to the Warwick Police against Spencer in September 2008, with other complainants coming forward to police in the ensuing months both in relation to him and other former Scots teachers.

These included complaints against Michael David Austin, who committed suicide last year after being charged with multiple counts involving students in the early 1970s.

The 77-year-old had been due to face a committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last May to determine if there was sufficient evidence to commit him to face trial over the charges.

A third former teacher and boarding house master, Brett Armand Dutton, was convicted in the Brisbane District Court on September 22 last year of three counts of indecent treatment of a boy under the age of 17 in 1978.

The child victim was a boarding student at the time, with the incidents occurring within the dorm.

Aged 57 at the time of his conviction and working as a wine salesman in Sydney, Dutton pleaded guilty to all three charges and was sentenced to 12 months jail, suspended for 12 months.

The Scots PGC College principal Michael Harding said yesterday he was “highly relieved that he (Spencer) has been brought to account”.

“Hopefully the sentencing allows the victims to work further towards some closure in the matter,” Mr Harding said.

“I can tell you that I am personally deeply sorry that they have had to endure such a lengthy time carrying such a burden and, of course, that it occurred in the first place.”

Calls from the Daily News to Uniting Church Queensland Moderator Bruce Johnson for comment were not returned yesterday.

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