Originally written by LIZ MCKINNON AND GEORGIA WATERS OF THE BRISBANE TIMES
A FORMER Monivae College principal has been jailed for sexually abusing two young girls in the 1980s and 1990s.
Michael Francis Reis, 66, a Catholic priest who has taught at some of Australia’s most prestigious schools, pleaded guilty in Brisbane’s District Court on Thursday to seven counts of indecent treatment of girls under 16.
The abuse occurred in Brisbane between 1983 and 1985 and in Caboolture from 1992 to 1995.
The court was told the first victim was aged 13 in 1984 when she was assaulted five times at her Brisbane home.
Reis molested the girls by touching them on their breasts and genitals but did not involve sexual penetration, placing his offences at the ‘lower end of the scale’, Judge Kerry O’Brien said at the sentencing hearing.
“It is … an unfortunate situation that a man of such otherwise good character and achievement should have lapsed in the manner that brings you today before this court,” Judge O’Brien said.
Reis, who formerly worked at Downlands College, had shown “genuine remorse” for what he had done, the judge noted.
“Nevertheless, the seriousness of your conduct is aggravated by its repetition (and) by the fact that there were two girls,” he said.
“These were two young girls in the formative years of their life.”
Judge O’Brien took into account Reis’ early guilty plea, which meant his victims didn’t have to give evidence before the court, and positive references by members of the community including other teachers, priests and former students.
Reis had also made efforts at rehabilitation and had been assessed as unlikely to reoffend, Judge O’Brien said.
The court heard that a psychiatrist told Reis he did not need further conselling, and he went on to gain employment at Monivae.
The court heard the victims inititially went to the Catholic Church with their complaints and received counselling in 1999.
But they waited nearly 10 years before going to police, who arrested Reis in January this year.
He was sentenced to 18 months in jail for each offence, to be served concurrently, but the sentence will be suspended after six months.
Monivae College principal Bernard Neal yesterday addressed a whole school assembly where he revealed the news to students and staff.
Reis was appointed Monivae’s seventh headmaster in 1985 serving until 1990.
He first began teaching at the school in 1971 and remained on staff for eight years before shifting to Downlands College.
During his years with the school he worked as senior boarding house master, director of senior studies and deputy headmaster.
He stepped aside from the ministry in January 2008 when the police indicated charges would be laid. During this time he also resigned from his position as director of the Monivae College board.
Mr Neal told the Spectator he had written to parents, revealing the news, emphasising the abhorrence of sexual abuse.
He said he had been a ‘well respected stalwart’ of the school but would not be returning at any time in the future.
“We are in a state of shock and deep sadness this morning,” he said.
“… he worked as a tutor since 1999 and up until the end of last year he was in that role. He had been a mentor to myself and an elder statesman around the school and helped enormously with our year 12s … they certainly respected him greatly, particularly his work exclusively with the senior students. He helped any of the kids to do their best in their year 12 exams.”
Mr Neal said there had never been any suggestion of impropriety from Reis in any school he had taught.
He said he could not publicly reveal the case before the court case because of a suppression order.