Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chairman Justice Peter McClellan.AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day oneAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day twoAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day threeAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day fourAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day fiveAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day sixAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day sevenAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day eightAS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day nineAS IT HAPPENED:Royal Commission day 10AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day 11AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day 12AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day 133.59pm The Royal Commission has adjourned and will resume on Wednesday next week, with Graeme Lawrence still giving evidence.Here’s a wrap of Day 14:
2.07pm The Royal Commission has resumed after lunch. Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence is giving evidence.Lawrence is giving evidence that he studied at St John’s Theological College at Morpeth from 1963 to 1965.
While he was there other students included Peter Rushton, Allan Kitchingman and Brian Farran.
Lawrence was ordained a priest in the diocese of Riverina in 1966. He was archdeacon at Riverina from 1978 to 1984. He agreed that was a position of considerable leadership within the diocese.
He became Dean of Newcastle in June 1984.
He was also commissary in the diocese, which meant he acted in the place of the bishop when the bishop was not there.
He agreed that many in the cathedral congregation were extremely loyal to him during his time there, and later.
He worked in the diocese of Wangaratta from March to October 2009. He was member of the General Synod of the Anglican Church from 1978 to 2008. He was also involved in a sub-committee responsible for the introduction of the church’s professional standards model ordinance.
Lawrence is being asked about his friendship with former Bishop Brian Farran, which developed when the two lived in a house together for about a year.
During Lawrence’stime in the Riverina he formed a relationship with his future partner Gregory Goyette, who came to live with Lawrence in the rectory of St Albans in 1975.
Defrocked former Anglican priest Bruce Hoare was a curate at St Albans between 1973 and 1977.
Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp: “Did you understand at that time that he (Hoare) was a homosexual?”
Lawrence: “I did.”
Graeme Sturt was also at St Albans from 1977 to 1980. Lawrence said he came to know Sturt was a homosexual.
Defrocked former Anglican priest Andrew Duncan came to St Albans in 1979 and stayed until 1981. Lawrence denied knowing that Duncan was a homosexual.
Lawrence denied sponsoring Bruce Hoare to transfer to Newcastle.
Sharp is now questioning Lawrence about Peter Rushton.
Sharp: “During the time you were the Dean of the cathedral, that is, up until 2008, did you have any awareness whatsoever of allegations that he had sexually offended against children?”
Lawrence: “None whatsoever.”
Lawrence said the former Bishop of Newcastle Roger Herft did not raiseallegations involving Peter Rushton with him. He said there would have been no reason for Herft to raise such allegations with him, despite his senior position.
Silent: Former Bishop of Newcastle Roger Herft.
Lawrence has denied evidence by archdeacon Colvin Ford that Peter Rushton, former registrar Peter Mitchell and himself (Lawrence) were a gang of three who worked together.
Lawrence: “Totally incorrect.”
Sharp: “And what is your response to the suggestion that you worked in league with one another?”
Lawrence: “We did not work in league with one another.”
Lawrence has denied having “any involvement whatsoever in handling, dealing with or otherwise liaising about allegaations that members of the clergy had sexually abused children”.
He denied being part of a committee, including Bishop Herft, that reviewed allegations of abuse.
He said it was his expectation that the bishop would handle those matters.
Sharp: “Is it your evidence that while you were the Dean of Newcastle you never became aware that members of the Newcastle Diocese clergy had been accused of child sexual assault?”
Lawrence: “I have never…” with the exception of a matter involving complaints by a man known to the royal commission as CKA.
A few questions later Lawrence revised that answer, when asked about a priest named Stephen Hatley Gray who was convicted of raping a 15-year-old boy.
Lawrence: “I’d quite forgotten about him.”
Sharp has told the royal commission that a priest has come forward to say Lawrence contacted him about the Gray matter, and asked the priest to write a stronger reference for Gray than he was prepared to give.
Lawrence: “I absolutely did not do that at any time.”
Lawrence is now being questioned about his knowledge of charges against priest Allan Kitchingman.
He said he only knew about the case from the media. He said he might have written a reference for Kitchingman but denied giving oral evidence in court.
Lawrence was shown the transcript of the court case in August 2002 where Judge Ralph Coolahan refers to Dean Lawrence’s evidence.
Coolahan said at the time: “In short, Dean Lawrence spoke very highly of the offender and his work, both within and without the church.”
Sharp: “You’re not left in any doubt that you did give oral evidence in this matter?”
Lawrence: “No no. Obviously I did. I have no recollection whatever of doing that.”
Justice McClellan is now questioning Lawrence about whether he gave true evidence in the sentencing of Kitchingman, and whether he had ever given evidence in a court.
Judge Coolahan noted in his sentencing: “The Dean said that because he thought so highly of the offender, and notwithstanding recent adverse publicity about clergymen giving evidence in support of other clergy…he wanted to be here for the offender.”
McClellan has asked about Coolahan noting that Lawrence said he had known Kitchingman and his wife for close to 40 years.
Lawrence said Kitchingman’s wife was a close personal friend of mine.
Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.Are you getting irritated with me, Mr Lawrence?
Counsel assisting the royal commission, Naomi Sharp.No, I’m not getting irritated with you. Far from it.
Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.Did Bishop Herft, while he was the bishop of Newcastle, ever raise with you allegations that you had sexually abused children?
Counsel assisting Naomi SharpNo, he did not.
Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.1.12pm The Royal Commission has adjourned for lunch. Graeme Lawrence will give evidence when we return at 2pm.12.32pm Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence is in a meeting room outside the main hearing room, and is preparing to give evidence after Bishop Peter Stuart completes his evidence. Evidence: Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence
Solicitor Ms David for Newcastle Anglican priest Roger Dyer is putting questions to Bishop Stuart about meetings between the two men in 2009 relating to Dyer’s allegations about Peter Rushton, the late priest who has now been acknowledged by the diocese as a prolific paedophile.
Stuart is being questioned about an email where he acknowledged to Dyer that “the significant issue of past abuse by a priest was a subject matter”.
The two men were discussing Dyer’s hope to return to work after a period of illness.
David: “I want to suggest to you also that you were reluctant to have him go back to work at that particular time?”
Stuart: “I think I have recorded in another email my concern that he was more unwell than he thought he was and that was my reason why I thought he shouldn’t return to work.”
David: “Did you not accept, thought, that the fact of dealing with the allegations that he was hearing at the time was something that would be deeply distressing and difficult for aperson in a parish to deal with?”
Stuart: “I don’t think that Roger Dyer was articulating those concerns with that –anything like that clarity. I think he was making some nebulous reflections on some of his predecessors.”
After several more questions, David put to Stuart: “What I’m suggesting to you is that at that particular time, when you wrote that letter, Roger was clearly telling you that the causes of his anxiety were these allegations that were going on at Wallsend about Peter Rushton that were being persistently ignored by the Anglican diocese at the time?”
Stuart: “I disagree.”
Stuart said that in July 2009, in a long-ranging conversation, Dyer “raised nebulous concerns about a whole range of matters to do with his predecessors”.
Lachlan Gyles, SC, for Bishop Greg Thompson is now putting short questions to Bishop Stuart.
Stuart has agreed with Gyles that a group at Christ Church Cathedral has shown “patent or open hostility” towards Bishop Thompson.
Gyles: “Can we take it or have you seen or observed that that sort of pressure and ostracisation has had a toll on him?”
Stuart: “Absolutely. Bishop Thompson is an exceptionally caring person who has a deep concern for the life of the diocese and the response of –the engagement by some people in the cathedral community towards him has had an absolute impact on him.”
Stuart said he also had experienced “hostility” from the cathedral group during his time as administrator before Bishop Thompson’s appointment in 2014.
Stuart said his commitment to dealing with the cathedral issue had been strengthened, partly because of the release of the cathedral group’s complaint against Bishop Thompson to royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan in April.
Stuart: “The cathedral is an important parish community and a landmark in the city of Newcastle. It is meant to be a beacon of spirituality to the community and it is meant to be a beacon of care to the community, and I’m absolutely committed to trying to make sure it gets there.”
Stuart is being questioned by lawyer Mr Taylor, for solicitor and former Newcastle solicitor Robert Caddies.
Stuart said he had written to the people who wrote the complaint to Justice McClellan to consider writing an apology to Bishop Thompson, and an apology to the royal commission.
One of five people who lost their positions on the cathedral parish council appealed the decision to the diocesan council, and the diocesan council had confirmed Stuart’s action.
Two people haveapologised to Bishop Thompson. The royal commission was told Robert Caddies hasnot apologised to Bishop Thompson.
Stuart is now being questioned by his lawyer Ms McLaughlin about a statement by business manager John Cleary, not tendered in evidence yet, in which Cleary describes Stuart as making changes that are “pro-respondent” or making decisions that are “respondent-driven”.
McLaughlin: “What do you understand that term to mean?”
Stuart: “I think that John was suggesting in his statement that I was siding with people who wanted to undermine the professional standards system, which is simply not correct.”
McLaughlin: “Is there anything else that you wish to say in response to you being described in that way?”
Stuart: “I found, sadly, John’s statement really hurtful.”
Stuart has told the royal commission he supports the national redress scheme.
Justice McClellan has asked Stuart to comment on why sexual abuse has occurred in three dioceses in which he has worked- Newcastle, Tasmania and Adelaide.
He said Newcastle was the worst and “I don’t know that we were watching for those moments that were causes of concern.”
McClellan: “So you see it as a lack of supervisory structure?”
Stuart: “Yes, I do.”
McClellan: “Of clergy?”
Stuart: “Of clergy and of church workers –of lay workers.”
11.45am The Royal Commission has resumed after the morning tea break.Assistant Bishop Peter Stuart has provided counsel assisting the commission Naomi Sharp with three names which are the subject of current diocese professional standards complaints.
Stuart is being questioned by Mr Alexis, lawyer for diocese business manager John Cleary, about events when former Bishop Brian Farran was considering not defrocking Graeme Lawrence.
Stuart has given evidence that he did not agree with that decision and put that, strongly, in writing.
He has also given evidence there was “significant negative engagement” with a sector of the “cathedral community” about Graeme Lawrence.
Alexis has put to Stuart that there was“a significant number of clergy within the diocese who were listening to that cohort of cathedral community and were acting in a way which was consistent with the views that they expressed regarding Graeme Lawrence”.
Evidence: Assistant Bishop Peter Stuart.
Stuart has not agreed with that.
Stuart has also not agreed with the assessment that Graeme Lawrence had a “very extensive sphere of influence throughout the diocese”.
Stuart: “I think Graeme Lawrence influenced some people, but I wouldn’t use the language of extensive and I’m not sure how many people were actually persuaded by his points of view.”
Stuart has not agreed that Bishop Farran was “intimidated” by Graeme Lawrence.
Alexis has put toStuart: “Ultimately you fell in line with Bishop Farran’s decision (not to defrock Lawrence), didn’t you?”
Stuart: “No, ultimately what I did was enable him to enact the decision that he had made.”
Alexis: “Can you explain to us why, despite the view that you held, which was to the effect that the recommendations of the board should be implemented –why you didn’t speak and speak strongly against what it was that Bishop Farran was going to do at the time?”
Stuart: “Bishop Farran was entitled to make the decision that he was making and he was entitled to give those effect. I was assisting him to give effect to the decision he wanted to make.”
The royal commission has already heard that Farran changed his mind about defrocking Lawrence after speaking to the complainant in the Lawrence case.
Stuart was appointed acting registrar for one day to register the document about action against Lawrence. He has told the royal commission he was willing to sign the document, authorised by the bishop, no matter which way the bishop decided on the Lawrence matter.
Alexis: “So is this a form of canonical obedience –is that how we should understand it?”
Stuart: “To do what the bishop asks, yes.”
Stuart is being questioned about detail of professional standards matters. It’s a little dry.
11.19am The Royal Commission has adjourned for morning tea. Newcastle Anglican Bishop Peter Stuart continues to give evidence.9.37am The Royal Commission has resumed.Counsel assisting the royal commission Naomi Sharp has tendered professional standards board documents and amendments to the board.
Bishop Peter Stuart is in the witness box and has taken an oath to tell the truth.
Stuart has confirmed he was administrator of the diocese from 2012 until February 2014.
Stuart has been a member of the Anglican Church’s General Synod since 2004, and was a member when the church’s national professional standards ordinance was adopted. Stuart was subsequently familar with the professional standards framework when he arrived in Newcastle in 2009. The diocese had largely adopted the national model in 2005.
The significance of this information is in how amendments were proposed in the Newcastle ordinance because of controversial hearings involving clergy.
Stuart said he had “great concern” at diocesan council comment that the diocese did not have a professional standards protocol, which was an essential part of the professional standards framework.
The protocol “fleshes out the ordinance” and outlines the steps the committee and professional standards director should take in the event of allegations against clergy. It outlines the role of contact people and support offered to both complainants and respondents.
Stuart eventually found a protocol in 2010 that was passed in 2005.
Stuart is now being questioned about attempts by people within the diocese to remove professional standards director Michael Elliott. People raising the questions were mainly on the diocesan council.
Asked why people were dissatisfied, Stuart said: “I think they weren’t satisfied that he was doing the job appropriately.”
Stuart said he did not share that view.
Stuart: “I thought Michael could refine some aspects of what he was doing but Ithought he was doing his job appropriately.”
Evidence: Bishop Peter Stuart.
Stuart said that as far as he was aware Graeme Lawrence did not apply for legal assistance after an investigation was launched into allegations against him.
Stuart said he became aware that Bishop Farran did not intend to follow the board’s recommendation to defrock Lawrence.
Sharp: “What was your view of the matter at the time?”
Stuart: “When Iconsidered all of the material, I wrote a document for him in which I stated that he should remove –depose all four priests from holy orders and discipline the layperson.”
Sharp: “So was your view that Bishop Farran should act in accordance with the recommendations of the board?”
Stuart: “Yes, yes, it was.”
Sharp: “And did you communicate that view to Bishop Farran?”
Stuart: “Yes, I wrote a –so I prepared a statement as if I was him, and I said if I was doing what you are doing, this is what I’d say, and I went through a series of steps and the arguments why he should reach that conclusion.”
Sharp has taken Stuart to a section of adocument, which Stuart said was the second version of the document, in which it refers to suspending the recommendation to depose Lawrence.
The document was created before Farran visited the main complainant in the Lawrence matter and was persuaded to defrock Lawrence, Stuartsaid.
Sharp: “And did you agree that that was the right course of action to take?”
Stuart is now being questioned about his statement that the policy-making process on professional standards in the diocese had been influenced by commentary and views that the professional standards process lacked procedural fairness. Clergy had expressed those concerns, he said.
He spoke specifically about the cases of priests Gumbley and COJ, which were the subject of an independent evaluation by respected law professor Patrick Parkinson. Parkinson found that the Gumbley matter was handled appropriately overall, and COJ should not have been suspended.
Parkinson did not find that the process lacked procedural fairness.
Sharp: “So to the extent that a procedural fairness concern had been raised in relation to those two matters, that concern had been independently investigated and the result of that independent investigation was that Professor Parkinson thought there was no denial of procedural fairness to either of those priests?”
Stuart: “Professor Parkinson gave me confidence, very full confidence, in the processes that had been in place in the part that I saw, that was the recommendation.”
Sharp is now questioning Stuart about an email by chancellor Paul Rosser sent to people including Stuart on August 31, 2010, proposing amendments to the professional standards ordinance.
At the end of the email Rosser said there was a body of opinion that the ordinance should be repealed in its entirety. Stuart said he believed the “body of opinion” represented a small number of people on the diocesan council.
Sharp is questioning Stuart about his emailed response to Rosser, but a document is not available. We will return to it.
Sharp is questioning Stuart about why professional standards director Michael Elliott and committee chair Geoff Spring were not involved in a series of emails on this subject, prompted by Paul Rosser.
Stuart said involving people “at the coalface” was a good thing, but at the time he didn’t raise it.
Stuart: “I was being drawn into this conversation not leading this conversation. I wasn’t even sure at this particular point how much Ishould offer my views.”
Sharp is questioning Stuart about amendments made to the professional standards ordinance, including that the board’s recommendations could be reviewed before the bishop acted on them, under certain circumstances, including where there was a denial of procedural fairness.
There were further reviews, despite Parkinson’s report and finding that there was “no proceduralfairness problem”, as put by Sharp to Stuart.
Sharp: “Did you turn your mind to the question at that time as to whether the continual reviews might send out a perception that the framework lacked legitimacy?”
Stuart: “No, I didn’t.”
The diocese considered and passed further amendments up to October, 2012.
Stuart is now being questioned about those amendments, including a provision that the findings of a professional standards board would be made available to the bishop and respondent clergy, but not the complainant or the public, in what Bishop Farran described as a “closed hearing”.
Stuart agreed that that was a significant diversion from what had been in place.
The amendments did allow the board to release its determinations and reasons 60 days after advising the bishop and respondent clergy, if the bishop had not already done so. It did not include release of the board’s recommendation.
Sharp is now questioning Stuart about the consequence of that amendment –that the bishop and respondent priest weremade aware of the outcome of a hearing, but the complainant was not made aware for at least 60 days.
Sharp: “So when you made this amendment, there wasn’t a focus on the needs and interests of the complainant?”
Stuart’s response included that “I think we should have given more attention to it”.
Stuart is now being questioned about a letter he sent to the current Bishop Greg Thompson on March 5, 2015, in relation to the amendments, where Stuart distinguishes between determinations and recommendations.
Sharp is quoting Stuart’s letter: “As I recall the consideration at the time, the intention behind the drafting in 2012 was to preserve the respondent’s right to seek a review of a finding and recommendation without them being in the public domain and to preserve the bishop’s ultimate authority as the one to act on a recommendation”.
The royal commission has been told that Michael Elliott advised Stuart that a complainant withdrew from the process because of the amendment that he or she would not be advised at the time that the bishop and respondent clergy were advised.
Professional standards board chairman Colin Elliott resigned from his position in December, 2012, in part because of the amendment change, in a letter saying: “There cannot be any doubt that to get the respect and confidence of the complainants –and the community –the protections provided by the ordinance must not only be user friendly and provide natural justice …but be seen to be independent.”
Former Newcastle Anglican Diocese professional standards board chair Colin Elliott. 9.25am Royal Commission day 14Hello everyone. It’s Joanne McCarthy at the royal commission for day 14 of the inquiry into Newcastle Anglican diocese’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations over decades.
On Thursday we had a full day of evidence from retired Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran, who told the hearing how he agonised over the decision to defrock his friend and former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence after a professional standards board hearing in 2010 into sexual abuse allegations involving a teenager from the 1980sthat resulted in a recommendation to defrock him.
Farran told the public hearing he had planned to prohibit Lawrence from any ministry activities but eventually defrocked him after meeting with the main complainant.
While the 2010 hearings divided the diocese and caused significant damage to the church in the Hunter, evidence to the royal commission from the first day of the hearing in Newcastle in August shows that child sexual abuse involving clergy had been a silent but significant issue for decades.
This morning we will hear evidence from Assistant Bishop Peter Stuart, who headed the diocese during the difficult period between Bishop Farran’s departure and the arrival of current Bishop Greg Thompson.
Bishop Stuart arrived at the hearing shortly before 9am with his lawyer.
We spoke. He said he was nervous -understandably so, given the hearing is live-streamed and for the period you’re in the witness box, you are the centre of attention –but this was “a necessary process”.
The hearing will start at 9.30am. Counsel assisting the royal commission Naomi Sharp told commission chair Justice Peter McClellan on Thursday that she expected to question Stuart for about 90 minutes. We can probably expect he would face some questioning from lawyers representing other witnesses.
It has not yet been confirmed but we could see former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence giving evidence after Stuart.
Lawrence chose not to take part in the professional standards board hearing. I will have to check but my memory is that he also did not give evidence at hisunsuccessful NSW Supreme Court appeal against the diocese over the professional standards hearing.
For those reasons his appearance at the royal commission is keenly anticipated by many.