In the first of a three-part series, Ferguson tries to get into the mind of a paedophile who abused 33 boys aged six to 17 – with the connivance, one could almost say, of the leadership of the Catholic Newcastle-Maitland diocese, who knew what was going on and simply moved him from parish to parish.In 1997, Ryan was jailed for 14 years for his crimes, which he committed over 20 years from 1975. Last year, he was tried on two new charges and, according to the documentary, for the first time in an Australian court ABC cameras were allowed to film the trial. Although the first episode does not contain the verdict, Ryan was sentenced to another three years’ jail.
Besides showing this trial footage, Ferguson talks to both the prosecution and defence lawyers, to survivors (all thoughtful and articulate), a psychiatrist and the investigating police officer, Troy Grant, who later became NSW Police and Justice Minister.
How did Ryan justify to himself what he did? “As far as I was concerned I was in a relationship. I was getting the love and the human touch and belonging,” he tells Ferguson. He never thought of the consequences for the children. He says the children wanted to be with him but, as Ferguson notes, these “blatant deluded falsehoods” are not unique to him. “Ryan is not alone in the claim that the children were complicit, even to blame, for the sins of the fathers,” she says.