The Chronicle front page story on December 11 last year which broke the news of the principal's sacking.
The Chronicle front page story on December 11 last year which broke the news of the principal's sacking.

Sacked abuse principal rehired

THE sacked principal at the centre of the child sex abuse scandal at a Toowoomba Catholic primary school has been rehired at a Catholic school in Ipswich.

Yesterday families of five girls abused by former teacher Gerard Vincent Byrnes reached a settlement with the Catholic Church's Toowoomba diocese to discontinue their legal proceedings.

A further three girls' families are expected to settle their cases next year.

Byrnes, 61, pleaded guilty in April to 44 sexual abuse charges, including 33 of indecent treatment of a child under 16 and 10 counts of rape. Byrnes was sentenced to 10 years' jail, which is being appealed by the Queensland Attorney-General as insufficient to reflect the severity of the abuse.

The principal, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was the first person in Australia to be charged under laws requiring the mandatory reporting to police of suspicions of child-sex abuse.

He was acquitted in December last year despite Toowoomba magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist finding it was "clear that a person in the school or the school's governing body has committed an offence".

Lawyer for the families Damian Scattini, of Slater & Gordon, yesterday acknowledged efforts by Bishop William Morris, who this year admitted the church's liability in an Australian first.

"The families are relieved that this part of it is over," Mr Scattini said.

"They're appreciative that the church, and especially the Bishop, handled it sensibly and they will be able to close this chapter."

But he said the families were very disappointed the principal had been re-employed by the Catholic education sector.

The Most Rev William Morris DD, Bishop of Toowoomba, has again offered his apologies to the victims.

"I am committed to ensuring that our apology is supported by action.

"The Diocese sought to make the compensation process as uncomplicated as possible for the victims' families. I sincerely thank the victims' families for the courageous and heartfelt manner in which they participated in the mediation process.

"I am pleased that for these five victims and their families an expeditious settlement was able to achieved, as it is another step on their long journey of healing," Bishop Morris said.

Settlement was reached this week after a two-day mediation between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba and the five families, represented by Slater & Gordon.

The mediation was conducted by former High Court judge Ian Callinan QC.

The compensation amounts are confidential.

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