msnbc.com
updated 7/2/2010 7:13:45 AM ET 2010-07-02T11:13:45

A Catholic cleric, who described himself as a "scumbag pedophile priest," has been jailed for nearly 20 years for abusing 25 children in Australia.

John Sidney Denham, 67, pleaded guilty to carrying out attacks on boys as young as five years old at schools in New South Wales between 1968 and 1986, The Australian newspaper reported.

Judge Helen Syme spent at least three hours summing up the charges. “The indecent assaults involved multiple children, often significant planning, were frequently sadistic and overall persistent, objectively serious, criminal courses of conduct,” she said, according to the newspaper.

“The offender's actions contributed to a culture of fear and depravity, especially at the school, which allowed these disturbing offences to occur and then remain unpunished for years.”

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Denham was sentenced to 19 years and 10 months, with an order that he serves a minimum of 13 years and 10 months before being considered for parole.

'Ruined families'
Outside the court, one of 39 people who accused Denham, Matthew Oakley, told the newspaper: “My only hope from the result that we have achieved today is that other abused victims have the strength and courage to come forward and achieve justice. Victims of abuse no longer have to hide as there is no shame in this.”

The mother of another victim told The Australian that the Catholic Church should be held accountable.

“He was a horrendous man, really horrendous,” she said. “It just all goes back onto the families, it's ruined families, siblings. It's disgusting, the hierarchy in the Catholic Church.”

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