Peter Pemble outside the Supreme Court at Newcastle, July 23, 2015.
Peter Pemble outside the Supreme Court at Newcastle, July 23, 2015. Darren Pateman/The Newcastle Herald

Nine-month sentence for former Trinity principal slammed

CHILD abuse victim advocacy group Bravehearts has called for a review of paedophile sentencing practices following the "far too lenient" nine-month jail sentence of former Trinity Catholic College Lismore principal Peter Pemble.

The former Marist Brothers senior educator, now 67, was sentenced on Thursday in the Newcastle District Court.

Brother Peter Pemble was not long out of teachers' college when he was sent to Marist Brothers High School at Maitland in 1971, Judge Peter Berman said.

The following year, Pemble selected a boy to help him organise sporting activities before isolating him on at least two occasions and indecently assaulting him.

The victim, who attended Thursday's sentencing hearing in Newcastle District Court, told of how he withdrew from sport completely after the attacks and went on to fail his school certificate before changing schools and completing his education.

He said he carried the shame and disgust of the attacks for decades before widespread reporting of paedophile activity within the Catholic Church began to affect him greatly.

He told his wife in 2013 about what Pem

ble did before alerting police.

When confronted with the allegations, Pemble disclosed that he'd assaulted two other boys, but has never been charged with those offences.

Judge Berman sentenced Pemble to 18 months' imprisonment with a non-parole period of nine months.

He said he was forced to apply sentencing principles from the 1970s, which were flawed and far more lenient compared to today's standards.

But Bravehearts criminologist Carol Ronken said the soft sentence failed to provide a just outcome for the victim, nor was it in line with community expectations.

Bravehearts was calling for a review of sentencing practices to ensure they were in line with what victims and the community expected.

"We understand that courts are required to apply sentences in line with those from the time that the offence occurred, however the reality is that child sexual assault has life-long impacts on victims," Ms Ronken said.

Pemble went on to become a school principal at Trinity Catholic College Lismore and St Gregory's Campbelltown.

Now retired, he has spent time studying and working at a university in Belgium, the court heard.

His lawyer, Greg Walsh, said Pemble would be vulnerable in jail because of his age and a number of ailments including the fact that he has undergone 15 operations including multiple hip and knee replacements.

The Marist Brothers' Province of Australia released a statement after the sentencing saying: ''While nothing can undo the harm done, we will provide [the victim] with ongoing support and redress.

"It is a source of great shame to the Brothers and the church that such actions could have been perpetrated against young people at a time in their lives when they were vulnerable and in need of nurturance and guidance. The trust that they and their parents gave Peter Pemble, the school and the Brothers was betrayed."

Pemble will be released from prison next April.


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