TEACHER GUILTY: Coast man sentenced over student sex attacks

AN ATTEMPT to argue a former paedophile teacher was now of "good character" has been rejected by a judge in Hervey Bay.

Urraween's John Vincent Lewis, 77, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of indecent treatment of a child when he appeared before Hervey Bay District Court yesterday.

It was the third time he had been sentenced in relation to molesting young girls while he was a teacher at a Maryborough school.

Lewis spent three months in custody for sexually assaulting four girls in 1986.

The convictions ended his career and in the years since, 13 more students have come forward telling of the abuse they suffered at his hands.

Lewis was convicted in 2017 of abusing five girls, with the charges dating back to the 1970s.

He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Since then, eight more former students have come forward with assault allegations.

Lewis' actions included incidents where he touched girls' breasts and thighs, rubbed their vaginas and cupped their bottoms while acting as their teacher in Maryborough in the 1970s, when he was in his early 30s.

He would often call the girls to the front of the class and assault them in the presence of other students, the court heard.

His name was mentioned during the Royal Commission into the institutional response to child sex abuse.

The court heard Lewis abused his position of trust at the school.

His actions had devastating impacts on the girls, including on their schooling and ability to form relationships.

In one case a girl informed her brother of the abuse, but her father accused her of lying and beat her, the court heard.

Barrister John Milburn argued because Lewis had been sentenced for his previous offending, the penalty against him would have remained the same if he'd been sentenced for the eight additional girls.

He argued this was especially true since the three-year head sentence from those charges resulted from charges relating to digital penetration.

Judge Jennifer Rosengren disagreed, saying the increased number of victims would have increased the penalty handed down in 2017.

Mr Milburn said Lewis' imprisonment in 1986 achieved the desired effect.

He said Lewis had not re-offended against children since that time, with the other charges pre-dating that initial court case.

He argued his client had rehabilitated and was now of "good character".

But Judge Rosengren said Lewis was a "recidivist paedophile".

"I would struggle to attach much significance to any good character," she said.

Three of the women submitted victim impact statements to the court, telling of how Lewis destroyed their innocence and their childhood through his actions.

One victim said Lewis "took away her innocence and swapped it for confusion and fear", Judge Rosengren said in her sentencing remarks.

She said Lewis had used his position as a teacher to isolate the girls and assault them.

"It was nothing short of a gross abuse of trust," she said.

Lewis was supported in court by his wife and children.

Mr Milburn said Lewis and his wife had ongoing medical issues and he provided support and care, which would be impacted by another term of imprisonment.

But Judge Rosengren said, given the number of new complainants and the position of trust Lewis had occupied and betrayed, a further term of imprisonment was necessary.

She sentenced him to a head sentence of two years in prison, wholly suspended after four months, with an operational period of two years.

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