National

Ex-principal facing retrial admits abuse

By AAP Newswire

After years of denial, trial delays and a hung jury, a former Sydney Catholic college principal has finally admitted he preyed upon boys at his school.

Peter Nicholas Lennox, now a frail 81-year-old, was permitted to remain seated as he pleaded guilty on Thursday to indecently assaulting two boys at St Paul's Catholic College, Manly in the 1970s.

"The tide waits for no man and today the tide comes in," one victim wrote in a letter tendered to the NSW District Court.

That student, then aged 12, was set upon by the Christian Brother after being kicked out of science class in 1977.

Led to a chemical room and questioned about why he was out of class, the Year 7 boy was fearful he was going to get the strap, court documents show.

But instead, Lennox spent five to 10 minutes rubbing his hand over the crotch of the boy's school pants.

"While this was occurring, the (boy) was looking at the ground and crying," facts tendered by prosecutors state.

Lennox, who was appointed St Paul's principal in 1972, also abused a Year 9 student who'd come to his office seeking permission to go home sick in 1974.

Once inside the office, Lennox asked the boy "Where does it hurt" and "How sick are you" before directing the 13-year-old to take off his pants and underpants.

When his principal touched his genitals, the boy froze and endured two minutes of abuse.

The victim, now in his 60s, said the abuse led to bedwetting and he'd since battled with mental health issues and episodes of homelessness.

After telling friends and his brother, he was ridiculed as though "I asked for it" and he experienced further pain in having to give evidence at a 2018 trial.

In that trial, the jury was unable to return verdicts on the two charges but did find Lennox guilty of three other crimes committed at Manly and St Patrick's Goulburn.

"I finally feel vindicated now that the offender has (been) held accountable for the abuse he perpetrated on me, although it was emotionally distressing with questioning and recounting of the details and then having its impact on me determined by others," the victim said.

Lennox served six months in prison and was facing retrial on the remaining charges before Thursday's admissions.

He also admitted abusing a third boy, who he called out of class to his office in 1975.

Public defender Josh Brock on Thursday stressed the serious offending involved grievous breaches of trust and should not be trivialised.

But he urged Judge Ian McClintock not to jail the elderly man again, given he'd already served time for similar offences and was beset a variety of health conditions including incontinence.

"That would make life generally challenging but I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it'd make jail hell," Mr Brock said.

Lennox was first arrested in 2014 and committed for trial in 2015, but health issues caused repeated delays and postponements.

He will be sentenced in August.