Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese day 12 | live blog

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chairman Justice Peter McClellan.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chairman Justice Peter McClellan.

4pm The Royal Commission has adjourned for the day. The hearing will resume at 11.30am on Thursday.

Here’s a recap of the day’s events with myself and Ian Kirkwood:

3.20pm Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran is now giving evidence.

Farran was bishop from June 24, 2005 to December 15, 2012.

He studied at St John’s Theological College, Morpeth from 1962 to 1964, and was ordained as a deacon in November 1967 at St Albans Church in Griffith, the Riverina diocese.

He was ordained as a priest at St Thomas’s in Narrandera in Griffith in 1968, and was assistant curate there while Graeme Lawrence was senior curate.

Farran and Lawrence were at Morpeth college together, and lived together as clergymen in a church house in Griffith for a year.

Farran said he was aware Lawrence was a homosexual man while they were living together at Griffith. He described their relationship as “friendly colleagues”.

Farran went on to marry and lived with his wife.

Graeme Lawrence started as Dean of Newcastle in 1984. Lawrence nominated Farran to be bishop.

Farran said he socialised with Dean Lawrence and Lawrence’s partner Greg Goyette, who also had roles in the diocese.

They were out to get me. - Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran about critics within the diocese.

Farran has told the royal commission that Graeme Lawrence has been described as “the most influential priest in the diocese of Newcastle for over 25 years”.

Farran: “Well, he is a very charismatic person, has a very strong personality. He’s tall, and I guess all of these things kind of go into a leadership profile. Very articulate, has very good verbal fluency. Strong – strong willed. Able to withstand – stare down people. I mean for example, as I said , he was open about his homosexuality. He would stare down people about that. So, yes, he was quite a powerful person.”

Farran criticised Lawrence for “making people dependent on him”.

Farran: “I was always surprised at how little seriously theological education was going on in the cathedral parish. In fact, I formed the view that in terms of the diocese, the cathedral parish would have been one of the most theologically inarticulate parishes around.”

Farran is now talking about the campaign against him once he started taking action against priests following child sex allegations.

Counsel assisting the royal commission, Naomi Sharp: “You refer to the vehemence of the Lawrence supporters?”

Farran: “Yes.”

Sharp: “What do you mean by that?”

Farran: “They were out to get me.”

Farran has told the royal commission about the very public opposition to him, including during a visit by the national Bishops Conference in Newcastle.

Farran: “They went out of their way, in that February, with stories to the Newcastle Herald, to discredit me as much as they could, and to create embarrassment for me amongst all my colleagues. But I always went to the cathedral. I wasn’t going to let them beat me. And in a sense like – you know how Margaret Atwood says about smiling assassins. I thought I would face them like that.”

Farran said he was not intimidated by Graeme Lawrence, and he felt Lawrence was respectful towards him.

Farran said that during a handover talk with outgoing bishop Roger Herft, Herft did not give any indication that he had received complaints about child sex offending by Graeme Lawrence.

Sharp: “It is fair to say that you had a pretty difficult time during your tenure as a bishop?”

Farran: “I had a terrible time.”

Sharp: “Tell me, would you accept now that there has been a very significant problem in the diocese of Newcastle with child sexual abuse?”

Farran: “Oh, yes.”

Sharp: “Were you aware of that very significant problem when you first became the bishop of Newcastle?”

Farran: “No. I had no idea. There was nothing. No one had briefed me, no one had mentioned anything like this. Philip Gerber (a prior diocese professional standards representative) certainly hadn’t told me about anything like that.”

Farran said he did not know about Peter Rushton’s offending; did not know the priest known as CKC had been prosecuted; was only told Allan Kitchingman was jailed for offences after he arrived in the diocese, and did not know priest Steven Hatley Gray had been convicted of abuse.

Farran said he had a great working relationship with the current professional standards director Michael Elliott.

Farran: “I probably wouldn’t socialise with Michael, he’s not exactly my cup of tea, but I had great respect for him. I really admired the way in which Michael was able to win the trust of victims. That was very clear.”

Committed: Current Newcastle Anglican diocese professional standards director Michael Elliott.

Committed: Current Newcastle Anglican diocese professional standards director Michael Elliott.

Farran first became aware of the diocese’s files – referred to as manila envelopes, brown envelopes, yellow envelopes – on sexual abuse and child sexual abuse, after a priest came to him in December, 2005 “about his dissatisfaction with an interview he had had with Bishop Herft”

Farran: “He told me the story of (trainee priest) Robert Elmore abusing his two daughters when he was at Morpeth College.”

Farran has told the royal commission that “I don’t think so”, in answer to a question about whether he saw any yellow envelopes.

Farran: “I don’t think I actually physically handed them over to Michael Elliott, either. I think that I said to Michael when he came to the office – ‘Michael, there are these envelopes here. They will be in the secretary’s filing office’.”

Farran said he presumed at least some of the envelopes contained allegations of child sexual abuse because of the Elmore case.

Sharp: “Did it occur to you, when you became aware of the existence of the envelopes, to review the envelopes to understand what allegations were being made?”

Farran: “No, because I thought that would have been a breach of the separation of powers – that in fact that was the province of the professional standards director.”

Justice McClellan has put to Farran that it would be an unusual situation if a corporation’s managing director didn’t know what was happening with staff “in relation to serious behavioural problems”.

Farran said he relied on briefs from the professional standards director and diocese protocols outlined how that would happen.

2.03pm The royal commission has resumed after the lunch break.

Solicitor Peter O’Brien representing Newcastle man CKA, who has told the royal commission he was sexually abused by a Newcastle Anglican priest, has resumed questioning Robert Caddies.

O’Brien is questioning Caddies about a subpoena that formed part of a trial in 2001 of the priest.

The subpoena was sent to the diocese by the priest’s legal representative.

Caddies is being questioned about why the subpoena was quite specific in seeking information that eventually uncovered “confidential communication” between CKA and Dean Graeme Lawrence, after CKA called the diocese child sexual abuse help line and Lawrence answered.

O’Brien: “Do you have any idea who provided details about the confidential conversation between CKA and Graeme Lawrence to (the priest) CKC’s lawyer, Mr Allen (and it’s worth noting that Keith Allen held positions within Newcastle Anglican diocese at the time, and has already had to respond to questions at the royal commission about the conflicts of interest that flowed from representing an Anglican priest charged with offences, while holding positions in the diocese).”

Caddies: “I have no idea.”

O’Brien: “If it was the case that the confidential communications that had been complained about by CKA had in fact been released other than by subpoena, and well before July of 2001, then you have been misled by someone within the church. Correct?”

Caddies: “Yes, I think that – either intentionally or otherwise – I have no idea.”

O’Brien: “But what seems to be the case is that you had been either ill advised, poorly instructed or there had been a fundamental failure to tell you that the documents may have been produced earlier to the defence.”

Caddies: “All I can say is I was not aware of any such thing happening...”

O’Brien: “Well, I’m talking about a serious concern raised by CKA in relation to the release of confidential communications. That’s significant, isn’t it?”

Caddies: “Yes.”

O’Brien has told the royal commission that CKA was cross-examined at a committal hearing before the documents were released by the diocese in response to a subpoena from the priest’s defence lawyer.

O’Brien: “You are telling this royal commission you have no idea who misled you, is that the case?”

Caddies: “Yes, I don’t know."

O’Brien: “One of the people who may have misled you was Graeme Lawrence. You understand that’s a possibility?”

Caddies said he didn’t believe he had any input from Dean Lawrence at that time.

O’Brien: “If hypothetically it were Graeme Lawrence who had misled you in relation to the first production of this particular material to the defence counsel for CKC, would that in any way shape your view as to the nature of the man, the character of the man?”

Caddies: “If that happened, it might affect my view, but I don’t believe he had any input into it at that stage.”

Caddies is now being questioned about his actions after pornography was found by removalists in 1998 when Father Peter Rushton moved home. The royal commission has already evidence from one of the removalists about what he saw at the time – among homosexual male pornography was a video with a cover photo showing a naked 12-year-old boy.

Lachlan Gyles, SC, for Bishop Greg Thompson is now questioning Caddies about the complaint to royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan in April this year about the bishop. In that complaint Caddies, and others, questioned why Thompson had not reported matters involving other victims many years ago.

Apology: Bishop Greg Thompson delivers an historic apology to victims of child sexual abuse committed by Anglican clergy in the Hunter region.

Apology: Bishop Greg Thompson delivers an historic apology to victims of child sexual abuse committed by Anglican clergy in the Hunter region.

Gyles has told the royal commission Thompson never held a position within the diocese before becoming bishop, did not study at Morpeth theological college, and only attended university at Newcastle in the 1970s.

Gyles: “Can I suggest to you, Mr Caddies, that it is grossly unfair, if not defamatory, to have tried to link Bishop Thompson with some failure to report this abuse, which was not disclosed by these individuals until last year, from the time that he was in the diocese, as a university student in the 1970s?”

Caddies: “Well, if that’s correct, it is unfair, yes.”

Gyles: “And can I suggest to you that the only possible motivation for you to have done so was to seek to, with the group of 15 who signed the letter, try to run him out of this diocese because you didn’t like what he was doing?”

Caddies: “No. I don’t believe it’s as simple as that.”

Gyles has now shifted to questions about a previous bishop, Brian Farran, and communications between people complaining about Farran while Farran was considering action against Dean Graeme Lawrence following a recommendation that Lawrence should be defrocked.

Gyles: “Can I suggest to you that your signal by that conversation with Bishop Farran was that if he played ball and followed the wishes of that group, then things would be made easier for him going forward in his running of the diocese?”

Caddies: “No, that’s absolutely wrong.”

Gyles: “And, to the contrary, if he didn’t play ball, things would be made more difficult….. for him by that group of individuals.”

Caddies: “No, absolutely untrue.”

Gyles is now questioning Caddies again about Bishop Thompson and the bishop’s allegations that the late former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Ian Shevills sexually abused him as an impressionable 19-year-old, while Thompson believed his future was in the church.

In the letter of complaint about Thompson’s public statements on the matter, made to the Newcastle Herald, Caddies wrote that Shevill’s behaviour “may have been misinterpreted”.

Gyles: “Do you think that groping someone’s genitals might have been something that was capable of misinterpretation?”

Caddies: “No, although I don’t think that was quite the way, with Bishop Shevill, that’s how it happened, according to the statement.”

Gyles is now questioning Caddies about the reference to Thompson being “not a child” when the abuse occurred, and so was a consenting adult.

Gyles: “So you were comfortable, were you, with this state of affairs: that a senior priest plies an impressionable 19-year-old with alcohol, tries to force himself on him, offering him smooth passage into the church, as involving some sort of consent on the part of the 19-year-old?”

Caddies: “Was that what Bishop Shevill said or was that what the other person said?”

Allegations: The late Newcastle Anglican Bishop Ian Shevill.

Allegations: The late Newcastle Anglican Bishop Ian Shevill.

Gyles: “Well, you tell me. Do you regard that as consent – consensual participation by the 19-year-old, on those facts?”

Caddies: “It may have been.. I don’t recall, unfortunately, the full detail of that, in the statement, that is.”

Gyles: “Mr Caddies, the irony of this letter is that you are anxious to protect the good name of Bishop Shevill, aren’t you? You say that you are gravely concerned about the good name of Bishop Shevill?”

Caddies: “He had a good reputation in this diocese.”

Gyles: “But what you have done is, in writing this letter in the terms in which you have written it, you have had no regard, whatsoever, have you, for the good name of Bishop Thompson?”

Caddies: “I think it was not intended that it (the letter to Justice McClellan) would ever be circulated so widely as it has been.”

Gyles is now questioning Caddies about other matters raised in the letter, that included that Thompson had taken lengthy sick leave, was not attending services with clergy, and was not attending Cathedral services.

Gyles has put to the royal commission that a Cathedral parishioner turned his back on Thompson during one service, and that “it has hardly been a welcoming flock there”.

Caddies: “I think it has been a very welcoming flock, actually. People were wanting him to do things, to become involved. He received invitations to dinner and so on. Frequently they were cancelled.”

Gyles has put to Caddies that the Cathedral congregation was “perhaps not so supportive of Bishop Thompson at the moment”.

Caddies: “Unfortunately, and I don’t wish to be critical, particularly, but when – it is normal practice when the procession of the clergy lead the Cathedral for the members of clergy to stay at the door and shake hands with people as they leave. Unfortunately, as soon as that happens, Bishop Thompson disappears. It’s most unfortunate, because there are many people who want to be friendly and to welcome him, and that’s still the position.”

The letter included statements that Bishop Thompson had taken lengthy time off sick leave.

Gyles: “You are in no position at all, are you Mr Caddies, to have any idea about whether or not Bishop Thompson has taken time off over the last year or two for illness?”

Caddies: “Only what I hear on the – in the diocese, yes.”

Gyles put to Caddies that he was “not really one to give him the benefit of the doubt in any of these issues, are you?”

Caddies: “I know, well, Bishop Thompson apparently will have a nasty encounter and then go off work for a couple of days after some experience at work. This is apparently a regular pattern. It’s – it is not uncommon comments that are being circulated about those things. he has spent a great deal of time off work, I believe.”

Gyles: “This is all circulated among the gossip at the cathedral, is it?”

Caddies: “No I don’t think so at all. The clergy speak about it quite a deal.”

Gyles: “You say in your statement that Bishop Thompson is a damaged soul?”

Caddies: “Yes, I do.”

Gyles: “I say that it is indicative of two things: first of all, it is indicative of a lack of empathy on the part of you and your group to the survivors of child sexual abuse?”

Caddies: “No, I don’t think that’s fair at all.”

Gyles: “Can I suggest to you that it is also symptomatic of a real and ongoing prejudice against him by your group in the work that he is seeking to do in the diocese?”

Caddies: “No, I don’t accept that in relation to child abuse at all.”

1.03pm The royal commission has adjourned for the lunch break.

12 noon. The royal commission has resumed after the morning tea break. Former Newcastle Anglican diocese solicitor Robert Caddies will continue giving evidence.

Caddies is now being questioned about his earlier evidence that the diocese somehow contravened its own protocols in relation to the way it handled the professional standards hearings and defrocking of former Dean Graeme Lawrence.

The protocol notes, under the heading “Dealing fairly with respondents” that “If possible arrangements should be made to provide assistance to pay for their representation”.

Sharp: “That is not a blanket obligation to pay the full legal costs of the respondent, is it?”

Caddies: “No.”

Sharp is now questioning Caddies about a section of his statement in which he says the allegations against Lawrence were untested.

Sharp: “The reason they are tested is because he wouldn’t participate in the proceedings before the board?”

Caddies: “That’s true.”

Sharp: “Do you have a concern that one of the most senior members of the diocese would not submit himself to the procedures that had been duly approved by the diocese?”

Caddies: “Well, I believe he was acting on legal advice.”

Sharp is questioning Caddies about whether there is a perception that Graeme Lawrence had been unfairly treated by the diocese.

Caddies: “There’s a much wider group of people who feel that he was unfairly treated. I’m not talking about in a legal sense. This man had been our priest for 24 years and he had lived through so much with so many people. People had a very high regard for him. I can just speak of my own mother’s death, you know, he was there from 7am until she died after midday and he sat with us, he blessed her, he prayed with us, we held hands and we said the Lord’s Prayer. He sat in there and when the – when she started to deteriorate he got up quietly and he went – started to say some more prayers and then he sat down again, and then, when she died, he said to my wife and I, and my father, he said ‘Now, Robert, I want you and Jocelyn to leave the room and let Bert’ – meaning my father, ‘Spend some time’ with her. Then he said you can come in with Jocelyn, and the family can come in after that. It was this wonderful pastoral care that I can never forget and for me to, you know, not have given $1500 nine months later, which was a mere trifle, although it was a lot of money to me in a ense, for him, I would have given more if I could have. I can’t thank him enough for what he did for us. That was a story that was common to many people in the diocese. He was greatly loved for what he did for people, and there are very few priests that would have that giftedness to show that kind of compassion and care that he showed to my family that day.”

I would have given more if I could have. - Solicitor Robert Caddies about the $1500 he gave to former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence to fight his defrocking.

Caddies is now being questioned about statements made by Bishop Brian Farran to the Newcastle Herald in which he acknowledged the diocese’s belief that the late Father Peter Rushton was a child sex offender.

Caddies was one of the people who complained to the Episcopal Standards Commission about Farran’s statements.

Naomi Sharp: “What is the problem with a bishop announcing publicly once he had good grounds for believing that somebody was a serial child abuser?”

Caddies: “I’ve thought a great deal about that issue, and I think that it’s very unfortunate, whoever it may be, that, guilty or otherwise, years after they have died, a claim of this nature is made. What is the way to deal with it should be something like an inquiry, as an inquiry under the Coroner’s Act, there should be some investigation in a formal way to decide, other than to announce it in the media.”

Sharp: “What about the need to have the victims’ stories heard, Mr Caddies?”

Caddies: “I totally understand that, and I am certainly in favour, totally in favour of that, but perhaps in the sense, there’s no adequate place for these things to be evaluated.”

Sharp: “What is happening here, isn’t it, is that you are punishing Bishop Farran for bringing these allegations out into the light of day?”

What is happening here, isn’t it, is that you are punishing Bishop Farran for bringing these allegations out into the light of day? - Counsel assisting the royal commission, Naomi Sharp.

Caddies: “I’m not punishing him for that. I’m punishing him for the way it happened, rather than the fact of it happening. The fact that these matters came out.”

I’m not punishing him for that. I’m punishing him for the way it happened, rather than the fact of it happening. The fact that these matters came out. - Former Newcastle Anglican diocese solicitor Robert Caddies about Bishop Brian Farran's media statements about Father Peter Rushton.

Sharp: “Well, isn’t a good way of bringing these allegations out into the light of day to tell the media about them?”

Caddies: “That is one way.”

Sharp: “Why is this group so concerned to keep these allegations secret?”

Caddies: “We weren’t concerned to keep them secret. We wanted, again, a proper way of doing it, rather than by announcements in – by press release to various newspapers.”

Sharp: “What did you want done, then?”

Caddies: “I hadn’t thought about it at that time what should be done, your Honour, but I was not happy about it.”

Sharp: “You were not happy because it gave publicity to a scandalous allegation in the diocese, is that it?”

Caddies: “No.”

Sharp: “Why were you unhappy?”

Caddies: “Because I felt that, again, there should be due process accorded even to a deceased person.”

Caddies has told the royal commission he doesn’t think the complaints made about Bishop Brian Farran over his handling of allegations relating to Father Peter Rushton and former Dean Graeme Lawrence were an attempt to intimidate him.

Sharp: “Was this punishing Bishop Farran for the way he acted with respect to Graeme Lawrence?”

Caddies: “I don’t know that ‘punish’ is the right word.”

Sharp: “Did you ever stop and consider what message you were sending to the diocese more broadly in complaining about somebody who had tried to bring abuse allegations into the public light?”

Caddies: “Well, it shouldn’t have stopped people wanting to come forward.”

Justice McClellan is questioning Caddies about what he and the others who complained about Bishop Farran wanted to achieve.

McClellan: “If you didn’t seek to have him removed, what did you seek to achieve?”

Caddies said he wanted an investigation to “see what might come from it”.

McClellan: “Well, what outcome could have come from it, apart from having the bishop removed?”

Caddies: “I'm sure there were other things other than removal of a bishop.”

McClellan: “You wanted him removed, didn’t you?”

Caddies: “Probably that would have been a good outcome as – in many ways.”

McClellan: “Have we finally got to the answer? Is the answer yes, you wanted him removed?”

Caddies: “I don’t think it was as strong as that, but yes, we were very unhappy.”

It is worth noting that Caddies is one of a number of people in a loose group who complained to some of the most senior Anglican clergymen in the country about two successive Newcastle Anglican bishops – Brian Farran and Greg Thompson –after both men spoke in public about historic child sexual abuse allegations within the diocese.

Inquiry: Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft during a service in which he is assisted by the now defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.

Inquiry: Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft during a service in which he is assisted by the now defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.

Caddies is now being questioned about his actions after professional standards proceedings in 2010/11 against Graeme Lawrence and others, leading to a recommendation that Lawrence be defrocked, and a subsequent appeal to the NSW Supreme Court by Lawrence and a second Newcastle priest, Graeme Sturt, against that recommendation.

Caddies contributed $1500 to Lawrence’s legal bill in that appeal, while holding a position on the audit committee of the diocese.

Solicitor Tierney for Bishop Brian Farran: “At the time that you funded Graeme Lawrence’s – or contributed to Graeme Lawrence’s legal fees – you were aware that the outcome of that litigation would involve a costs order being borne by the unsuccessful party; do you agree?”

Caddies: “Yes.”

Tierney: “And at that stage, as the chairman of the audit committee, you didn’t have an concerns about a conflict of interest?”

Caddies: “I didn’t at any time in my own mind believe that that litigation would be successful by the people that brought it. So I didn’t address that issue.”

Tierney: “So your evidence is that you felt comfortable funding or contributing to the funding of a prospectively unsuccessful piece of litigation that would still likely involve some unrecovered expense on the part of the diocese, correct?”

Caddies: “Well, I actually think they were covered by insurance.”

Tierney: “You didn’t ever tell Bishop Farran that you were contributing to the expenses of Graeme Lawrence, did you?”

'Punished': Bishop Brian Farran enters the royal commission in August during the first part of the Newcastle Anglican diocese hearing in Newcastle.

'Punished': Bishop Brian Farran enters the royal commission in August during the first part of the Newcastle Anglican diocese hearing in Newcastle.

Caddies: “No.”

Caddies is now being questioned about his beliefs about the allegations against his friend Graeme Lawrence.

Tierney: “Do you now accept that Graeme Lawrence and Graeme Sturt abused children?”

Caddies: “Based on the evidence I would have to say yes, but I don’t know.”

Solicitor Peter O’Brien, representing a Newcastle man known to the royal commission as CKA, is questioning Caddies about the charging of a Newcastle Anglican priest in 2001, after allegations by CKA. The priest is the subject of a new police investigation and the royal commission has already been told there will be a fresh trial on those allegations, after the 2001 charges were withdrawn.

11.35am. The royal commission has adjourned for the morning tea break.

Good morning, it’s Joanne McCarthy back with rolling coverage of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing into Newcastle Anglican diocese. After 11 days of hearings in Newcastle in August, the commission resumes in Sydney at 10am.

It’s time for a recap.

Back in August we heard sensational evidence about the diocese’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations over decades, and under a number of bishops and senior clergy.

In her opening address counsel assisting the royal commission, Naomi Sharp, said there would be evidence about how the diocese responded to allegations against nine men, including the late priest Peter Rushton, lay preacher James Brown and defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.

Sharp outlined how the commission would consider the prosecutions of various clergy and the consequences of the diocese’s responses on people making allegations, and their supporters.

It would be fair to say that Sharp’s outline of what we would hear at the royal commission somewhat understated actual events as they unfolded.

The brief evidence given by former diocesan solicitor Robert Caddies in the final few minutes of the last day of evidence in Newcastle is a case in point.

Caddies was one of a number of “quite senior professionals” in the diocese, primarily from the Newcastle Cathedral parish, who wrote to royal commission chair Justice Peter McClellan in April this year, in a complaint about current Bishop Greg Thompson.

The bishop has very publicly advocated the need for a change in the diocese’s culture, after making public his own story of sexual abuse by two senior clergy.

In a sensational few minutes McClellan accused Caddies of leading “coordinated opposition to the bishop”. Caddies initially denied being one of the leaders but eventually conceded that he was.

Caddies denied asking McClellan and the royal commission to investigate Thompson, after the April letter questioned why the bishop had taken years to disclose his story of abuse.

McClellan: “Were you seeking to say to the royal commission that because it has taken so long, the bishop’s credibility should be looked at?”

Caddies: “No, no, not at all.”

McClellan ended his questioning of Caddies by asking the solicitor if he had been telling the truth when he denied seeking to challenge Thompson’s credibility.

Caddies will enter the witness box in a few minutes after just entering the royal commission foyer area.

Evidence: Former Newcastle Anglican diocese solicitor Robert Caddies leaves Newcastle Court in August after an explosive few minutes of evidence on the final day of the part-heard royal commission Newcastle Anglican diocese public hearing.

Evidence: Former Newcastle Anglican diocese solicitor Robert Caddies leaves Newcastle Court in August after an explosive few minutes of evidence on the final day of the part-heard royal commission Newcastle Anglican diocese public hearing.

10.07am.

The Royal Commission public hearing into Newcastle diocese has resumed. Legal representatives for various witnesses are seeking leave to appear.

The commission has just been told a number of new documents have been served on various witnesses.

On August 3 former Bishop Alfred Holland gave evidence he was never made aware of allegations that Peter Rushton has sexually abused children.

Holland was asked to make a supplementary statement after a number of witnesses told the royal commission they had spoken to the bishop about Rushton.

Naomi Sharp: “At that time, those representing Bishop Holland were advised that his credit was in issue.”

Holland provided the royal commission with a supplementary statement on Monday, November 14.

Sharp said housekeeping matters are completed, and Caddies is now being questioned.

Caddies is being taken to the letter sent by him and other Cathedral parishioners to the royal commission in April this year, about Bishop Thompson.

Sharp is questioning him about the statement that “We are greatly concerned that Bishop Thompson apparently took no action” about disclosing his abuse.

McClellan: “You were intending to criticise him, weren’t you? Let’s be frank about this. That’s what you were seeking to do, wasn’t it?”

Caddies: “It’s yes, I suppose it is your Honour.”

Sharp: “What you have actually said here is that you are gravely concerned that “Bishop Thompson was potentially exposing younger members of the diocese to danger”, do you see that?”

Caddies: “Yes.”

Sharp: “That’s a very serious allegation to level against the bishop, is it not?”

Caddies: “Well, yes, I think I am saying that.”

Sharp: “So you are seriously suggesting that a 19-year-old man, failing at the time to report his abuse by the most senior member of the diocese, was exposing other people to potential harm?”

McClellan: “What were you trying to do? What were you trying to achieve by this letter?”

Caddies: “I understood that Bishop Thompson was being interviewed at that stage, and it seemed to me, and I believe to the others, that at least there should be some explanation, and we are hearing this a great deal in the royal commission now, that people want to bury these things from their recollection, but it seemed to us that there should nbe some explanation as to why it’s come out only recently.”

Caddies is now being questioned about his knowledge, as a solicitor, of the history of people disclosing  abuse many years after it’s occurred.

Sharp: “Why are you targeting Bishop Thompson in this letter for failing to report his experiences as a 19-year-old man?”

Why are you targeting Bishop Thompson in this letter for failing to report his experiences as a 19-year-old man? - Royal commission counsel assisting Naomi Sharp

Caddies: “These matters are a very small part of the concerns that I and the other signatories have in relation to Bishop Thompson.”

These matters are a very small part of the concerns that I and the other signatories have in relation to Bishop Thompson. - Former Newcastle Anglican diocese solicitor Robert Caddies

Robert Caddies has now told the royal commission that he had a similar experience to Bishop Thompson as a 19-year-old which was “not as bad”, “so I do understand where Bishop Thompson is coming from”.

“I had something like that happen with a medical doctor when I was a 19-year-old who was training to be a specialist, so I do understand the concerns. I certainly reported the comment to my friends of a similar age but I believed at the time no one would be me, as a 19-year-old, against a medical person going on to, in a postgraduate fellowship,” said Caddies.

Caddies is now being questioned about his views about “false allegations” related to “recovered memories”, but has conceded he is not personally aware of any such false allegations.

Sharp is questioning Caddies about a second letter, but McClellan is now questioning Caddies about wanting Thompson to be removed.

McClellan: “Just answer my question: you wanted him removed. Is that correct or not?”

Caddies: “No, your Honour, I don’t believe it’s necessarily correct. It may have been that, but not necessarily.”

McClellan: “The picture we now have, of course, is of a deep division in the diocese, that’s correct, isn’t it?”

Caddies: “There is certainly a great happiness in these matters, yes.”

McClellan: “And a lot of that centres around the history in relation to Dean Lawrence, doesn’t it?”

Caddies: “Some of it.”

Defrocked: Former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence

Defrocked: Former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence

Sharp: “Are you just making this up as you go along, Mr Caddies?”

Caddies: “Ms Sharp, as you rightly point out, I’m a solicitor of 45 years standing and I am an officer of the Supreme Court of NSW. I take my responsibilities as such very seriously and I certainly am not making it up as I go along.”

Caddies has denied wanting child sex allegations to remain private matters within the diocese, saying he “wanted due process to be conducted”.

He has denied a campaign to undermine Bishop Thompson because he “tried to raise the issue publicly of child sexual abuse within the diocese”.

Sharp: “And he tried to right the wrongs of the past?”

Caddies: “No. In fact, you know, if we had really wanted to simply ‘bring Bishop Thompson down’, we, not necessarily we, but it would have been possible to have involved the Bishops Incapacity Canon and start the process. We were not trying to do that. We were trying to ask the Metropolitan (senior Australian Anglican clergyman) ‘What do we do?”

Sharp has just put to the royal commission the suggestion that Graeme Lawrence, solicitor Keith Allen and the then Newcastle Bishop Roger Herft may have been on a committee that examined sexual abuse allegations.

Caddies said such a committee was separate from a committee of which he was a member, which also dealt with allegations.

Caddies is now being questioned about advice he provided to the diocese about defamation law as he believed it related to people making child sexual abuse allegations against diocese members.

Sharp: “So just so I understand, your objective was to show people that they could be comfortable in making complaints and they did not need to fear defamation?”

Caddies: “Absolutely.”

Caddies is now giving a lengthy explanation of the diocese’s processes and committees for dealing with child sexual abuse matters. He has told the commission he did not believe one of the committees was appropriate for dealing with child sexual abuse.

Caddies is now being questioned about section 316 of the NSW Crimes Act, where a person can be charged with concealing or failing to report a serious crime. NSW is one of only two Australian states with such a criminal offence. There is yet to be a successful prosecution of a clergyman of any denomination for failing to report, or concealing, a serious crime involving child sexual abuse by another person, including a member of clergy.

Caddies provided advice about section 316 to the then Bishop Roger Herft.

Sharp: “Was it on one occasion that you advised Bishop Herft about section 316 or on more than one occasion.

Caddies said he was sure he had advised Herft of the section on a number of occasions. He also advised a diocese committee known as CASM that allegations needed to be reported to the police.

Sharp has just put to Caddies: “Were you personally aware that allegations of child sexual abuse that were made to the committee were referred to Bishop Herft?”

Caddies: “Yes, by the chairperson.”

Sharp: “Now, did you provide any advice to Bishop Herft that he needed to report these allegations to the police?”

Advised: Archbishop Roger Herft outside Newcastle Court in August following his evidence to the royal commission.

Advised: Archbishop Roger Herft outside Newcastle Court in August following his evidence to the royal commission.

Caddies: “We looked at those issues and if it was appropriate, yes, I did. I can’t specifically recall an occasion – we discussed those matters, yes. I was very conscious of the need to do what I’d call the right thing.”

Caddies is now writing down the names of any alleged perpetrators he says he provided advice to the diocese about after allegations were raised while he was diocesan solicitor.

Caddies has given Sharp the name of trainee priest Ian Barrick, who was eventually charged and convicted. He also provided the name of a priest known as CKN, but told the royal commission that CKN had already been reported to police, but not by the diocese.

Caddies has also told the royal commission he provided “limited advice” in relation to pornographic material owned by Father Peter Rushton that was found in 1998. That matter was not reported to police because “we didn’t believe at that time that child pornography was present”.

Sharp: “So your position was that if you didn’t believe it, you didn’t report it to the police?”

Caddies: “No, I don’t believe that was my position at all.”

Sharp is now questioning Caddies about verbal advice he gave to the diocese about allegations relating to a youth camp. He is now being questioned about the diocese’s “yellow envelope” system of keeping files about child sex allegations.

The intent of the yellow envelopes was to deal with “conciliation-type matters”.

McClellan: “Could you explain to us, what did you mean when you said the intention was that they would be conciliated?”

Caddies: “I think, well, it was, your Honour, it was initially thought that it would be a matter of informal discussion between the person making the allegation or complaint and the person, the subject of the complaint, that there should be some informal negotiation which may be resolved?”

McClellan: “What were you trying to achieve through a conciliation of an alleged criminal offence?”

Caddies: “No I wasn’t referring to criminal offences at all. I believed they were more in the nature of sexual harassment.”

Caddies has told the royal commission he did not include allegations of sex by a priest with an under-age child under the heading of “conciliation-type matters”.

Sharp: “Just so we understand the position, if an allegation of child sexual abuse came to the committee, the committee chair would refer that allegation to the bishop with the expectation that the bishop would handle it from there?”

Caddies: “Yes.”

Sharp is now questioning Caddies about evidence given by another lawyer involved with the diocese, Keith Allen, that Graeme Lawrence, Jim Helman, Bishop Herft, Caddies, peter Mitchell and Paul Rosser were on an advisory committee that Sharp has referred to as the “brown envelope committee”.

The royal commission has already heard these envelopes contained some child sexual abuse allegations against clergy.

Sharp has referred to evidence given by a former woman involved with the diocese and on one of the sexual abuse committees, who said mothers rang her to talk about abuse against their sons.

Sharp has told the royal commission that a diocese document known as the “yellow envelope report” identified 36 separate allegations of abuse, and 26 of them related to child sexual abuse.

Sharp: “Does that number strike you as a high number?”

Caddies: “Yes, it does.” 

Sharp: “During the time you were on CASM (one of the diocese committees), did you form the view that there was a serious problem with child sexual abuse within the diocese of Newcastle?”

Caddies: “No, I don’t believe I did have that view, and I believed that we were doing the right thing at the time by diverting those matters to the bishop and the business manager, in relation to child abuse matters, and that the normal protocols would be followed.”

Caddies has denied being told about a police investigation into abuse allegations against Anglican youth worker James Brown, even after Brown was charged and the matter went to a committal hearing.

Caddies is now being questioned about the late Anglican priest Peter Rushton, who the diocese has now confirmed was the subject of serious allegations while he was alive.

Caddies has told the royal commission that he and Bishop Herft were satisfied that while Rushton’s pornography was homosexual pornography, it did not include child pornography.

Caddies has earlier made a statement to the royal commission that the diocese was provided with statements by people who had seen the pornography, which allowed Herft and Caddies not to take the matter further, and not to report it to police.

Caddies is now giving evidence that he was not sure about receiving the statements.

He is now being questioned about a letter from Newcastle legal firm Sparke Helmore, referring to the statements, and requiring the diocese to provide an indemnity before the statements can be released to the diocese.

Caddies has now told the royal commission that “I don’t believe we did” receive the statements, leading Naomi Sharp to ask if that meant “You relied on what was effectively hearsay about what the contents of that pornography was?”

He denied that. Sharp has now put to Caddies that he relied on assurances given by Rushton to two men who were friends of the priest.

Sharp: “Did it ever cross your mind that Peter Rushton, who was accused of a criminal offence of possessing child pornography, might not be candid with the people he was dealing with about that allegation?”

Accused: The late Anglican priest Peter Rushton.

Accused: The late Anglican priest Peter Rushton.

Caddies: “If it had been as simple as that, yes.”

Sharp: "Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to have reported it to the police and let the police sort it out?”

Caddies: “With the benefit of hindsight, I think that’s true, but I think at the time it seemed the reasonable thing to do.”

Sharp: ‘Was this a missed opportunity for detecting Peter Rushton’s paedophilia?”

Caddies: “It possibly was.”

Caddies is now being questioned about defrocked former Dean Graeme Lawrence. He has earlier given evidence that Lawrence is a good friend.

Sharp: “I want to ask you some questions about the defrocking of Graeme Lawrence. It’s fair to say you are not happy with that process leading to his defrocking?”

Caddies: “I’m disappointed about it, I – yes.”

Justice McClellan: “So you are saying you don’t think he should have been defrocked because proper process wasn’t followed? Is that what you are saying?”

Caddies: “No your Honour. All I really ever wanted for Dean Lawrence and for the other people is for a – for due process.”

McClellan: “Are you saying that as a consequence the decision to defrock him was wrong?”

Caddies: “No, I’m not saying that. I’m not happy with the fact that Dean Lawrence didn’t participate in those proceedings.”

McClellan: “As far as the ultimate outcome was concerned, do you think it was right?”

Caddies: “If one believed the facts as alleged, probably, yes.”

Caddies has confirmed he contributed to a fund raised by friends of Graeme Lawrence after the former Dean appealed to the NSW Supreme Court against his defrocking.

The royal commission has also been told that Lawrence also used money left to him by his recently deceased parents to meet some of the legal bill, after he was ordered to pay the diocese’s costs as well as his own. The total bill ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop