ROYAL COMMISSION: Former Newcastle dean gives evidence for second day

THE defrocked former Anglican dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, has stared down his accusers from the witness box for a second day, denying any sexual improprieties of his own, and claiming next to no knowledge of anyone else’s.

DEFIANT: Questioned about "smutty" cards to complainant CKH on Wednesday, former Newcastle Anglican dean Graeme Lawrence said a "group shot" could have been a reference to a "diocesan affair".

DEFIANT: Questioned about "smutty" cards to complainant CKH on Wednesday, former Newcastle Anglican dean Graeme Lawrence said a "group shot" could have been a reference to a "diocesan affair".

Asked repeatedly by the counsel assisting the Royal Commission, Naomi Sharp, if he was telling the truth, Lawrence invariably replied that he was.

In one lengthy stint of evidence, Lawrence was asked about pornographic cards sent between himself, his life partner Gregory Goyette, and a complainant, CKH, who alleges that the pair, together with clerics Andrew Duncan, Graeme Sturt and Bruce Hoare, preyed on him sexually – in Duncan’s case from the age of 14.

While Sharp and the chairman of the commission, Justice Peter McClellan, put it to him that a number of phrases – including “I prefer the head of this card” and “good enough to eat” – were sexual references, Lawrence insisted that each had an innocent meaning, regardless of whether the cards had naked men on their covers.

When a letter to CKH referred to a video with “edifying group shots”,  Lawrence insisted the reference was not to pornography, and that the “group shots” could have been “a diocesan occasion”.

Asked by Sharp if he was “the leader of a circle of abusers” within the diocese, Lawrence replied: “Certainly not.”

Wednesday was the second last day of the Anglican case study, which is set to finish on Thursday, its 16th day.

Proceedings began on Wednesday when a former auxiliary bishop, Richard Appleby, was recalled to give further evidence by telephone from England, having previously denied having met an abuse survivor, CKA, in 1984.

Appleby had originally said there was no reference to any such meeting in his diaries, but when the commission inspected them, the references were found. Confessing “intense embarrassment” at his mistake – he said he should have found someone with “proof reading skills” to check his diaries for him – Appleby accepted that the meetings had taken place, as CKA had alleged.

But he still insisted he had no recollection of the meetings, other than to say that they could not have been (as CKA has said) about child sexual abuse, because he would have remembered that and would have acted, and he had not.

He similarly denied two meetings in 1987 with since-convicted sex offender Jim Brown were about child abuse. Reminded by the commission that he was under oath, he insisted he was telling the truth and took the oath “enormously seriously”.

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