‘Predatory’ paedophile from Salvation Army gets 18 years in jail for child abuse
A Salvation Army worker is likely to die in jail after being sentenced to 18-and-a-half years in jail for sexually abusing seven boys between 1973 and 1999.
Robert Burnett, 77, who maintained his innocence during 14 separate trials, was found guilty of abusing the boys, who were aged between seven and 13.
Burnett ran Salvation Army homes for boys and five of the victims were wards of the state.
He abused the boys during sleepovers at his home at Thorpdale, east of Melbourne, or while on camping trips at Walhalla and Wandin.
On some occasions other children were present.
Burnett had a ‘hidden side’
In sentencing, Judge Bill Stuart said Burnett was “a predatory paedophile” who hid behind the public persona of a genuine and caring man.
“During the day you behaved in a normal and caring way but at night you became something different,” he said.
“There is another side to you one that you kept hidden from all adults.
“You presented to the community at large as a man who genuinely liked children.”
Judge Stuart said he also built trust in his victims only to exploit it for his own sexual gratification.
“You are remorseless and you are inciteless,” he said.
Burnett will be eligible for parole in 14-and-a-half years, but is likely to die in jail due to his age.
No checks and balances to protect victims
Protesters gathered outside the Victorian County Court after the sentence.
Leonie Sheedy, from the Children’s Homes & Foster Care Abuse Group (CLAN), said the authorities need to be held accountable for the abuse of children in care.
“I am pretty disgusted at the Salvation Army. What duty of care did they have towards those five state wards and the department of human sacrifices?” she said.
“They were wards of the state. Where were the checks and balances?”
She said the case would form part of CLAN’s submission to the Child Abuse Royal Commission.
“He hasn’t got an ounce of remorse,” Ms Sheedy said.