Two survivors of child sexual abuse have shared their impacts of being raped by a teacher at a northern NSW boarding school in the 1960s. 

Key points:

  • Two survivors told the court of their “lifelong struggle” caused by “violent” sexual abuse by Leonard Gardiner at The Armidale School in the 1960s
  • Gardiner’s lawyer argued for his advanced age and health issues to be considered in the length of his sentence
  • The sentencing of Gardiner has been delayed until November 11

In the District Court in Armidale in June this year, Leonard Gardiner, 83, was found guilty of buggery and maintaining an unlawful relationship with a child.

Today the court heard of the “countless vicious rapes, torture and sexual assaults” that lead to a “lifetime of struggle” for one of the victims.

“The level of physical pain I endured at the hands of Gardiner still astonishes me,” one man told the court.

“Gardiner told me he was attracted to me because of my irresistible sexual allure. He told me this was my fault, and that I’d never have a successful relationship with a woman.”

The court heard the man “genuinely believed” he would not live to see his 30th birthday and lives with PTSD, suicidal tendencies, and chronic depression.

The court heard Gardiner’s abuse caused a “lifetime of struggle” for the two survivors.(Supplied: Timothy Hughes)

A second man told the court that the “damage” wrought by Gardiner irrevocably changed the course of his life.

“The spark within me had died … I was a one-man army fighting a war from within,” he said.

The court heard the man fell into cycles of alcohol and substance abuse that started in his final year of school to deal with the trauma, but said he now looked ahead to a “brighter future”.

“I have just started my 15th consecutive year without a drop [of alcohol],” he said.

The court heard Gardiner taught the students mathematics at The Armidale School during the 1960s.(ABC New England North West: Amelia Bernasconi)

The man described to the court how he felt when he heard Judge Jennifer English hand down a guilty verdict to Gardiner four months ago.

“I could feel the hairs on my arms stand up, and I could feel the vindication of my pursuit for recognition of what happened 50 years ago,” he said.

“Watching Gardiner walk out the side of the courtroom a convicted paedophile was the most incredible sensation I have ever felt in my life.”

The other man also said the verdict was a “surreal” experience.

“Every day of the past 143 days has felt a little better than the one preceding it. The ineffable burden a little lighter — of the extreme depression that has haunted my entire teen and adult life,” he said.

He also emphasised to the court how he wanted his story to be seen.

“I ask that it is not interpreted as a woe is me record, nor a plea for pity. In conclusion, whilst this statement is titled ‘Victim Impact Statement’, to my mind, it is a survivor’s declaration”, he said.

In 2019, Leonard Gardiner was charged with buggery and maintaining an unlawful relationship with a child after the two victims came forward.(ABC New England: Caitlin Furlong)

Gardiner’s lawyer, Phillip Boulten SC, told the court the offender accepted the “seriousness” of the crimes and argued that Judge English factor in his “advanced age” to the sentence.

“The offender does have a track record, but it was a long time ago,” he said.

“He’s an old man who is without any emotional or family supports in prison, in a place far removed from where he spent his entire life.

“The reality is this prison sentence will be a very, very significant part of the rest of his life, if not all of it.”

Crown prosecutor Steven Wilkinson acknowledged Gardiner’s old age, but said the sentence must “reflect the objective seriousness of the offending”.

The judge-alone trial ran out of time to finalise the matter, and Gardiner’s sentence will be handed down on November 11.