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Australian priest gets 20 years in jail for sexual abuse of boys

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • John Sidney Denham was convicted of sexually abusing numerous boys over two decades
  • Judge called him "persistent" and "sadistic"
  • Victims cried openly in court; felt relief
  • Denham is eligible for parole in 2022

(CNN) -- A Sydney court on Friday sentenced an Australian Catholic priest to almost 20 years for sexually abusing two dozen boys over two decades, the official news agency said.

The district court's public gallery broke into applause as the judge read out the sentence for John Sidney Denham, 67.

Judge Helen Syme said many of the victims were terrorized and that Dehman himself has admitted his behavior was "evil," the Australian Associated Press reported.

Syme spent almost three hours graphically detailing the crimes Denham had pleaded guilty to, including multiple counts of indecent assault against boys aged between 5 and 16 years.

"The indecent assaults involved multiple children, often significant planning, were frequently sadistic and overall persistent, objectively serious, criminal courses of conduct," Syme said.

"The offender's actions contributed to a culture of fear and depravity, especially at the school, which allowed these disturbing offences to occur and then remain unpunished for years," she said.

Denham's victims cried openly in court as they listened to the judge's words, CNN affiliated ABC News reported.

Matthew Oakley, one of the men who made complaints against Denham, said he was relieved victims no longer have to hide.

"My only hope from the result that we have achieved today is that other abused victims have the strength and courage to come forward and achieve justice," Oakley told reporters outside the courthouse.

The abuses took place at Sydney's St. Pius X High School between 1968 and 1986, ABC reported. The boys there apparently used to cry out: "Bums to the wall, Denham's on the crawl."

Denham will be eligible for parole in June 2022.