Offending Institution: Ben Venue Public School

There were three active paedophiles working at Ben Venue Public School at one time. Read more about the school’s history with Kelso Lawyers.

Ben Venue Public School Teachers

Ben Venue Public School was a haven for child sex offenders, with three active paedophiles teaching at the school at the same time during the 1970s. One teacher, John Ferris, has been convicted of more than two dozen charges and another, Ian Berryman, was charged with 33 offences but died before the case went to trial.

More than 20 students have made allegations against a third offender, Peter Garland, however, Garland died in 2010 without ever facing criminal charges.

Garland was allegedly known as “the feeler”

Peter Garland was the principal of Ben Venue for many years. Students referred to him as “the feeler” because he would lock children in his office and touch them or force them to touch him. His behaviour was an open secret at the school, but as the principal, he was a protected species.

At least five families made reports to NSW police about Garland’s behaviour, but no charges were ever laid. Police fobbed off many of these reports, telling the families that Garland was a “respected member of the community”.

One family also complained to the Education Department, only to be told their child would not be believed because it would be their word against the principal.

Despite decades of offending, Garland was able to live out his days in peace, even receiving an Order of Australia Medal in retirement. It was not until 2014, four years after his death, that NSW Police conducted a serious investigation into his behaviour, with at least 15 students coming forward with allegations of abuse. The number of allegations has continued to rise since this time.

Are you a survivor of child sexual abuse at Ben Venue? Click here to share your story with us. You may be eligible for compensation.

Ferris preyed on members of the gymnastics team

John Ferris was a classroom teacher, assistant principal and gymnastics coach at Ben Venue. He abused young girls in his classroom, his office and during gymnastics.

Much of the abuse occurred during gymnastics; he would sexually touch the girls while ‘assisting’ with their routines and when ‘helping’ them into their gymnastics uniforms. Many young girls from Ben Venue have come forward with horrific tales of abuse by Ferris.

It was not until 2016 that Ferris was finally held accountable for some of his crimes, when he was convicted of 16 offences from his time at Ben Venue, including indecent assault & kidnapping.

Berryman abused at least 18 boys

Ian Berryman was a classroom teacher and sports master at Ben Venue in the early 1970s. In 2015, he was charged with 33 counts of indecent assault of a male in relation to offences allegedly committed against 18 young male students at Ben Venue in the 1970s.

Berryman suffered a stroke prior to the matter going to trial and was never held accountable for his crimes.

If you suffered abuse in a NSW school, we want to hear from you. We will fight for you. Click here to share your story, or call us on (02) 4907 4200.