A former public school teacher from Armidale, in northern New South Wales, has been sentenced to at least three and a half years in jail for the abuse of eight girls.
John Gregory Ferris’ victims cried as graphic details of the abuse they suffered at Ben Venue Public School in the 1960s and 70s were read out by Judge Stephen Hanley during sentencing.
Ferris pleaded guilty in January to 16 offences, including detaining a person for advantage (kidnapping) and indecent assault.
Armidale District Court heard Ferris was the assistant principal at the school and also had responsibility for training the gymnastics team.
He “began touching girls inappropriately as he assisted in routines” and was “often present while they changed”, sometimes assisting them into their gymnastics uniforms.
Judge Hanley said Ferris digitally penetrated a number of victims.
He also locked one girl in a toilet cubicle in a staff room and forced her to perform oral sex on him until someone walked into the neighbouring cubicle and he stopped.
The court heard after one girl’s parents declined permission for her to participate in sex education classes, he asked if she wanted private lessons.
The girl, who thought Ferris was singling her out as a favourite, was molested during the lessons.
One of the victims, Cathryn James, chose to be named publicly after a sentencing hearing heard from victims last month.
The court heard Ferris told her: “Your body is very mature for your age.”
Paedophile teacher arrested after royal commission referral
Ferris was arrested in July 2015 following a referral from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
In sentencing, Judge Hanley said the breach of trust and the 12-year period of offending were aggravating factors.
“[The victims] were entitled to believe he would protect them,” Judge Hanley said.
He also said the crimes were not opportunistic, but planned.
Judge Hanley said Ferris had caused substantial injury and “the impact of his behaviour has affected [his victims’] quality of life” and “handicapped them”.
The maximum penalty for some offences Ferris was facing is 20 years, but Judge Hanley said given the historic nature of the offences it was “necessary to have regard for sentencing practices at the time”.
He cited the “extensive damage” Ferris had caused and the “need for a general deterrent” in sentencing him to 10 years in jail with a non-parole period of three and a half years.
He will be eligible for parole in July 2019.
Another Ben Venue Public School teacher charged following a referral from the royal commission, Ian Berryman, died shortly after his first appearance at court in July 2015.
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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