Listen to the secret recordings that put an abusive Illawarra child care worker behind bars

Warning: Explicit and offensive language, distressing content

An ex-Illawarra Family and Community Services worker who physically and verbally abused a disabled boy in his care has been jailed for his "appalling" crimes.

Lennard Downes showed no emotion when Magistrate Susan McGowan sentenced him to 12 months' jail in Wollongong Local Court on Thursday, rejecting calls from his lawyer for a non-custodial penalty.

The court heard Downes was working an overnight shift at a Balgownie respite care centre in November 2016 when he made a series of chilling, aggressive threats to the nine-year-old boy, who has non-verbal autism.

The 36-year-old can be heard aggressively and repeatedly ordering the boy to “eat” as he tried to spoon feed him. 

When the boy apparently refuses to comply with the request, Downes tells him “f---ing spit it out and I will f---ing open your mouth”.

In other recorded interactions, Downes twice threatens to hit the boy if he doesn’t do as he’s told, and at one stage tells him if he doesn’t swallow what’s already in his mouth “I’ll break ya neck”.

Jailed: Lennard Downes leaves Wollongong courthouse during a previous court appearance. On Thursday, he left the building in the back of a Corrective Services van, bound for SIlverwater jail.

Jailed: Lennard Downes leaves Wollongong courthouse during a previous court appearance. On Thursday, he left the building in the back of a Corrective Services van, bound for SIlverwater jail.

On another occasion he says “f---ing behave you little c--- or I will f---ing smash you”.

Downes was also found guilty of physically assaulting the boy, which left a red bruise on his chin.

In court on Thursday, defence lawyer Cate Doosey said her client was going through a stressful relationship breakup at the time, working long hours with little support and was ill-equipped mentally, emotionally and skillfully to deal with the boy's high needs.

She said in hindsight, Downes was someone who "never should have worked in that industry".

Meanwhile, the boy's mother read a victim impact statement to the court, describing her son as "defencelesss, exceptionally vulnerable and severely disabled".

"His only way of communicating is using hand gestures and a computer program….he doesn't have the ability to tell me how his school day was or what he has for lunch," she said.

"For the last two years … any sudden movement or loud noise causes him to cry and shake uncontrollably.

"We have lost all trust in support workers from the one event which tarnished our trust."

Magistrate McGowan imposed a non-parole period of nine months, noting Downes had no significant criminal record, was remorseful and had not planned the offences.

Downes lodged an appeal against his sentence and sought release on bail in front of a different magistrate, however it was denied.

The appeal has been set down for May 24.

This story Listen to the secret recordings that helped jail abusive child care worker first appeared on The Macleay Argus.