A man who ran a hostel in Perth for wards of the state has been sentenced to 20 years’ jail for what a judge described as the sadistic, perverse and persistent sexual abuse of eight children for whom he was supposed to be caring.
Martin James Cooper, 66, was found guilty last month of 30 child sex offences dating back to between 1978 and 1983 when he and his wife ran the Warminda hostel in East Victoria Park.
Cooper was found to have repeatedly physically and sexually abused the eight children, including raping three girls who were aged between 11 and 16.
Warminda was owned by the government but operated by the Uniting Church, and housed children who had been taken from their families because they could not, or would not, look after them properly.
Each of the children had government-appointed welfare officers and some of them testified at Cooper’s trial that they had tried to tell these authorities, and others including the police, what was happening.
Each of them was told they were telling lies and being troublemakers.
Authorities failed the victims: judge
In carrying out the sentencing, District Court Judge Mark Herron said those victims had been failed.
“They were failed by the state, failed by the welfare authorities, failed by the Uniting Church. The police failed them,” he said.
“Each was in desperate need of care and protection but no one provided that care and protection.”
Judge Herron said Cooper had preyed on the victims and had taken advantage of their vulnerability in a place where they should have been cared for and protected.
“Each of them had no one else to turn to,” he said.
“They were trapped without any way to protect themselves.”
Judge Herron said Cooper also subjected his victims to constant threats and intimidation, saying he “taunted and humiliated” them by telling the children they were wards of the state, were not wanted and would not be believed.
Martin James Cooper sexually abused eight children in his care at the Warminda hostel in East Victoria Park. (Supplied)
He described Cooper’s crimes as “premeditated, persistent, and terrifying” and said he had committed the offences “to satisfy his own sadistic perversions”.
He also said Cooper had shown no remorse or empathy for his victims.
Cooper’s lawyer, David McKenzie, urged for mercy to be shown because Cooper was in poor physical health there was “a possibility he may not make it out of custody”.
Judge Herron accepted that the health problems would make Cooper’s time in prison more difficult but he said the offences were so serious he had forfeited the right to have any reasonable expectation of a useful life after release from prison.
‘It was very hard to re-live it’
After the sentence was handed down, one of Cooper’s victims thanked the police officers who investigated the case when it was referred to them by the Royal Commission for Institutional Reponses into Child Sexual Abuse.
“Because if it wasn’t for them believing us, it might not have got this far,” she said.
“It was very hard to re-live it all over again but I’m glad it is now over and done with.
“Any other people out there who are going through the same stuff, please don’t be afraid to speak up.”
The woman said she was “a little bit happy” with the sentence.
“I’ve lived with it for 40 years and he’s only got to live with it in jail for 20,” she said.
Cooper will have to serve at least 18 years of his 20-year sentence, meaning he will be first eligible for release on parole in 2036 when he is 84 years old.