A boy’s trust betrayed

A FORMER substitute teacher who inflicted a “prolonged regime” of sexualised abuse on a Liddiard Road Primary School student in the 1980s faces considerable jail time, after pleading guilty in Latrobe Valley County Court.

Strathmerton resident Gregory Vinen, 57, will face sentencing later this month for five charges, including two counts of sexual penetration, amid estimates a drawn out relationship with his victim enabled about 200 incidents of abuse.

Vinen’s incarceration brings to an end a 24-year wait for his victim who watched on in court as prosecutors described how he was assaulted in a grade three classroom the first time he met the substitute teacher.

The court heard Vinen ran his hand up the thigh of his victim and groped his crutch after inviting students to sit on his knee one at a time to show him their work.

A period of targeted grooming behaviour followed, when Vinen turned up at the victim’s remote family farm, despite having only taught the student’s class on one occasion.

“Over a period of six to seven years… the accused had regular access to the complainant, took advantage of his role as a teacher to engrosiate himself,” the prosecution outlined.

On a later occasion ferreting on the family farm, Vinen asked the victim if he ever sat on his father’s knee, to which he was told ‘no’.

Vinen then described such behaviour as “alright”, that he was “the son that he never had” and “this is what fathers do”.

Through an ongoing relationship with the parents, the victim was often left in Vinen’s exclusive care on numerous fishing and camping trips, where multiple instances of molestation occurred, which later progressed to oral and anal penetration.

A teacher for 12 years, the court heard Vinen worked at schools in Melbourne suburbs and across the Latrobe Valley.

However, his teaching career abruptly ended in the early 1990s, reaching a financial settlement with the education department after he was acquitted for”similar” charges at a trial in Bairnsdale.

Vinen has since subsisted on a teaching pension as his sole form of income, his defence team describing him as being in a “fairly pitiable position in many ways, albeit all through his own conduct”.

Magistrate Michael Tinney said he would need to consider how much remorse Venin had shown for his crimes in determining the weight of his sentence.

Reading out a comprehensive list of incidents of abuse in a plea hearing on Thursday, prosecutors said Vinen had used acts of intimidation to ensure his victim’s silence, declaring he “knew where to get a hitman” and stating “no one will believe you”.

At one point Vinen’s behaviour was almost discovered by the victim’s father when he started molesting the victim in his own bedroom.

“The father came home while it was happening, the accused said ‘f***, don’t you dare say a word’. By the time the dad walked in Vinen and the accused had gotten dressed,” the prosecution stated.

In another account, the court heard the then-14-year-old boy had woken to find Vinen standing over him completely naked, masturbating, and saying “I know you want it”.

In an impact statement read out to the court, the victim said he felt betrayed by the education and justice systems.

“In the pain and suffering of a school teacher doing these things to me, I just think what could’ve been. I do know life would’ve been a lot more enjoyable as it should’ve been without these things happening.”

The victim spoke of the pain of later sending his daughter to school everyday “full of worry”.

“This is what eventually led to me coming forward – my daughter’s eyes of proud trust going off to school in her very own faith in the schooling system that was there to help her,” he said.

“I could no longer take the guilt of not doing anything knowing what had happened. It was tearing me apart as a parent and a person.”

The court heard the victim subsequently confronted his molester at a 2012 family gathering, secretly recording a conversation in which Vinen said “I’m sorry”, “it’s disgraceful” and “I’m ashamed”.

Despite Vinen’s subsequent arrest, he resisted admission of guilt in the matter, which was due to go to trial last week, before he negotiated a guilty plea on Tuesday.