Around the school yard there was a saying: "Bums to the wall, Dom's on the crawl."
Darcy John O'Sullivan, or Brother Dominic as he was known, had a reputation among his young male students.
The 78-year-old was sentenced on Friday to a maximum of six years in jail for molesting a dozen boys while he was a teacher at Marist Brothers in Hamilton, Newcastle, and a principal at St Mary's High School in Casino.
He was charged with 22 historic child sex offences which occurred between 1971 and 1983, and there was evidence he may have committed many more.
In setting a non-parole period of three years, District Court judge Kate Traill stressed she had to impose a term that reflected the laws at the time the offences were committed and that "the sentence does not represent an appropriate sentence for such offences if committed today".
The court heard that O'Sullivan opportunistically preyed on boys, sliding his hands over their bodies and into their pants as he walked around the classroom while teaching technical drawing.
He groped the genitals and buttocks of boys who had been sent to his office for punishment, making them sit on his lap or bend over in front of him.
One boy was lying on a stretcher bed in a sick bay, when O'Sullivan entered the room, put his hand under the blanket and touched him on the genitals.
The court heard that O'Sullivan was known to walk around the playground, tucking boy's shirts in and would tell them to "take their hands out of their pockets because they might stray".
One of his young victims started tightening his belt a notch before he went to class. Students tried to barricade the walkway between their desks with stools to prevent O'Sullivan from coming near them.
"We are in for another term of this," one recalled thinking after O'Sullivan had untucked his shirt, rubbed his bare stomach and pushed his hands into his underpants.
Many of the boys O'Sullivan abused were from strict Catholic families and were scared to tell their parents, fearing they would be punished or accused of lying. Some thought this "was just something you had to tolerate" at school, the court heard.
When one victim revealed that O'Sullivan had molested him when he was sent to the principal's office for punishment, his mother said: "You shouldn't be sent to his office in the first place, it's your fault."
After three vacated trial dates, O'Sullivan earlier this year entered a guilty plea to a string of offences, and a further 10 were taken into account in his sentencing.
Judge Traill acknowledged that, although she was bound by the sentencing laws of the 1970s and 1980s, judges at that time did not have a full awareness of the psychological harm that followed child sexual assaults.
"If I was to impose the sentence today under the current regime the sentence would be significantly increased, however I am required to set a sentence that reflects a substantially lower statutory level of imprisonment then available," she said.
The court heard that O'Sullivan had told a psychologist he saw his behaviour as an "outlet of physical affection" rather than for sexual gratification.
"This is concerning and demonstrates he does not understand the gravity of his offending ... it is in my view minimising the offending in the extreme," she said.
O'Sullivan will be eligible for parole in August 2019.
In a statement, Marist Brothers Australia apologised to "all those abused" by O'Sullivan.
"What they have endured and the tragic consequences that have flowed from these events are matters of enormous sorrow and regret," the statement said.
"That these crimes should never have happened is without question and we accept that the actions of some of our Brothers has caused great pain and suffering."