Peter John O’Neill in the 1987 Dominic College yearbook. Picture: FACEBOOK
Peter John O’Neill in the 1987 Dominic College yearbook. Picture: FACEBOOK

‘Pointless’: Morbidly obese paedophile won’t be jailed

A MORBIDLY obese paedophile who molested young boys while teaching at Dominic College, Burnie High School and St Virgil's College during the 1980s has been sentenced.

Peter John O'Neill, 61, had previously pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault and one count of penetrative sexual abuse relating to six children.

The court had heard the 140kg man suffered severe degeneration of the lumbar spine, spinal stenosis, chronic pain and difficulty breathing.

Plans to extradite O'Neill, who now lives in Canberra, had fallen flat given the huge costs of medical transport by air and the inability to cart him to Hobart via land and sea amid COVID-19 restrictions.

In the Supreme Court of Tasmania the court heard O'Neill's victims ranged in age from 10-15, with most not coming forward to police for decades.

Chief Justice Alan Blow said O'Neill's "predatory behaviour towards vulnerable boys" was an abuse of trust placed in him as a teacher.

The court heard his actions had a terrible impact on his victims, with their education disrupted and reports of a continuing distrust of others, difficulty holding down jobs, suicidal ideation and homelessness.

O'Neill grew up in NSW and his parents abandoned him and his sister when he was 3 years old, the court heard.

He was abused by a relative at the age of 7 or 8.

After moving to Tasmania, the court heard he had no close friends and sought the company of boys.

Chief Justice Blow said O'Neill had a full time carer through the NDIS scheme and required help to get out of bed and for personal hygiene and he was unable to stand for more than two minutes.

Chief Justice Blow said there was no realistic prospect of O'Neill being returned to Tasmania and so imposing a prison sentence would be "pointless."

"He deserves to spend a long time in prison," he said.

"Most of the usual sentencing options are unavailable or entirely inappropriate - he is physically unfit for community service, home detention would be pointless and he does not have the funds to pay any fine.

"With his immobility, incontinence and other medical conditions, his life is now probably far more miserable than most prisoners."

O'Neill was sentenced to five years in prison, wholly suspended, on condition he not commit another jailable offence for 10 years.

Originally published as 'Pointless': Morbidly obese paedophile won't be jailed