SYDNEY (JTA) – A former coach of a Maccabi basketball team in Australia was sentenced to eight years in prison for sexually abusing four girls more than a decade ago.
Shannon Francis, who is not Jewish, was sentenced Wednesday by County Court of Victoria Judge Meryl Sexton. Francis must serve at least 5 1/2 years before he is eligible for parole.
A suppression order surrounding the case had prevented the media from revealing his name or that of Maccabi, the largest Jewish organization in Australia with some 9,000 members across more than 50 clubs, according to its website.
Earlier this year Francis, 37, pleaded guilty to four charges of child sex abuse, including one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16.
It is understood that at least one incident took place during an overseas trip to the United States. The incidents date back to 1999 and 2000.
Maccabi Australia President Lisa Borowick said in a statement, “Maccabi and its member clubs have never and will never condone or seek to protect their own interests in any case of suspected criminality, especially one involving harm to children. It is our understanding that the officials involved in 2000 acted in full consultation and agreement with the victims and their families.”
Manny Waks, founder of Tzedek, an organization for victims and survivors of Jewish child sex abuse in Australia, welcomed the news.
“It highlights the fact that the scourge of child sexual abuse is not confined to one specific segment of the Jewish community,” he said. “Just as within the broader society, child sexual abuse is prevalent within the Jewish community.”
Two other child sex abuse cases involving Jewish organizations are currently before the courts: one involves a non-Jewish bus driver who worked at the haredi Orthodox Adass Israel School in Melbourne. Reporting on the other case has been suppressed.