Ex-teacher jailed over student sex assault

Cheryl Goodenough |

A Queensland school teacher who indecently touched 20 students in his class over more than a decade from 1974 has failed in his attempt to have his latest jail sentence reduced.

The teaching career of John Vincent Lewis ended when he was first sentenced in 1986 for seven counts involving four girls aged nine and 10, including a charge of aggravated assault on a girl under 17.

But more former students made complaints about offences after private hearings in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

Lewis was sentenced again in 2017 and 2019 before being ordered by the Hervey Bay District Court in February to serve a further four months behind bars.

The 2017 convictions related to five girls aged nine and 10, including two who were digitally penetrated four times, and two charges of common assault against a male who said something after seeing Lewis’ indecent dealings. The offences were committed between 1976 and 1978.

Lewis was convicted in 2019 for offences against eight complainants aged eight to 12 over three years from 1974.

The latest charges related to five counts of indecent treatment of a child perpetrated against three girls aged nine and 10.

He touched one under her underwear, lifted another’s dress and underwear to look at her vagina and digitally penetrated the third.

The offences occurred in 1979 when Lewis was a grade 5 class teacher.

The sentencing judge said it was not uncommon for the touching to occur in front of the class, with complainants having described lifelong consequences from Lewis’ actions.

He described Lewis’ conduct as persistent, brazen and a gross abuse of trust.

“Each referred to the fear, anxiety and trauma experienced in simply attending school,” Justice David Boddice said in a Queensland Court of Appeal judgment published on Wednesday.

Lewis received an effective sentence of 18 months in jail, suspended after serving three months, after pleading guilty. 

His offending came to light during an investigation in Hervey Bay as a result of disclosures during the Royal Commission.

Lewis, who was born in 1942, has not reoffended since he was first jailed in 1986, the judgment said.

Lewis sought leave to appeal his sentence, arguing that it was manifestly excessive, but the Appeal Court refused his application.

Justice Boddice said the offending constituted an egregious breach of trust by a teacher acting in his professional capacity and serving 14 months behind bars was not unjust.

“It properly reflected his cooperation, his expressed remorse and rehabilitation and hardship occasioned by a return to actual custody on three separate occasions,” he said.