Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese day 15 | 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 hearing has run past the scheduled 4pm finish and has just finished at 4.27pm.

It has been adjourned until 9.30am on Thursday.

In the final section of evidence diocesan business manager John Cleary was questioned by a counsel for former bishop Brian Farran over a range of matters, including a decision to stand Cleary down from his position for one day in 2012 to allow auxiliary bishop Peter Stuart to take his place to allow Farran to proceed with disciplinary proceedings against former dean Graeme Lawrence and three others over the CKH matter.

The professional standards board had recommended defrocking Lawrence, but Farran was demurring. The commission has heard that Cleary, as secretary of the board, did not agree to this, and would not sign off on such a decision.

To allow matters to proceed, the commission has heard that Bishop Stuart agreed to act as director for the day, to allow the paperwork to be signed.

As it turned out, Farran did agree to defrock Lawrence after travelling to rural NSW with professional standards director Michael Elliott.

Cleary remains in his job, although he said Farran had “dislocated himself” from Cleary for a while after Farran had refused to go along with him, saying “I don’t think he expected me to say what I did”.

“I think he expected me to be loyal and follow his direction,” Cleary said.

Farran’s counsel also question Cleary as to why he told the royal commission about rumours that Farran was homosexual, something that Cleary’s counsel, Mr Alexis, had earlier agreed had no basis in truth.

Cleary said he had reported this to the royal commission in an answer to a question about potential conflicts of interest.

When Farran’s counsel asked Cleary whether he now accepted there was no truth of a possible relationship between Farran and Lawrence (they had shared a house as young trainee priests), Cleary said: “I am unable to accept it. All I was doing was reporting what had been told to me.”

He believed he had an obligation to mention it in the light of the disciplinary board’s recommendation and Farran’s original intention not to depose Lawrence.

3.30pm: Diocesan business manager John Cleary says about 40 to 50 people have accepted redress from the Newcastle diocese over child sexual assault matters.

He said at least two other cases were still in the pipeline.

On bishop Brian Farran’s original intention not to follow the professional standards recommendation in relation to disciplining former dean Graeme Lawrence and other Anglican figures in relation to the CKH matter, Cleary said that while Farran had said it would be “catastrophic” for the diocese to defrock Lawrence, Cleary believed it would be similarly catastrophic if he didn’t do it.

Cleary said he thought it was Farran worrying about it being catastrophic for him.

In the end Farran did follow the recommendations, except for softening the penalty against cleric Graeme Sturt, which Cleary said was “ridiculous”.

He is being questioned now about meetings he had with prominent lay figure and solicitor Keith Allen in February and March of 2015, in which Allen had given him a lot of advice about historical matters involving the diocese that were likely to be of interest to the Royal Commission.

Questioned by royal commission chairman Graeme Lawrence, Cleary said he found Allen’s advice to the diocese “unpalatable”.

Cleary had kept file notes of his conversations with Allen, and insisted that they were accurate accounts.

chairman Peter McClellan

chairman Peter McClellan

2.55pm: The diocesan business manager, John Cleary, has been called to the stand and is being taken through his role, which he likens to a chief operating officer in the corporate sense, and on the professional standards framework now, and previously.

Cleary confirmed that there had been attempts to removed Michael Elliott as director of professional standards, with chancellor Paul Rosser and solicitor Keith Allen being two of the drivers.

He recalled Elliott being described as a “bounty hunter”, with concerns that his former career, as a police officer, being “inappropriate” for someone employed by the church.

There were also concerns about “adverse outcomes for some priests”, namely COJ and John Gumbley.

Later, when Cleary was asked about attempts to weaken the professional standards ordinances, he said reviews tended to follow hearings.

He said this was the case in 2010, when a review was called after the Gumbley and COJ matters.

“But I didn’t see a problem with the ordinance, but with the respondents’ behaviours,” Cleary said.

2.45pm: Former dean Greg Lawrence has been questioned by counsel for former Newcastle bishop Herft, for Adamstown minister Chris Bird and for former bishop Brian Farran.

Colin Haezlewood for former bishop Brian Farran.

Colin Haezlewood for former bishop Brian Farran.

He has completed his evidence and has been excused.

He said that although he had never seen a code of practice drawn up by Reverend Bird at Adamstown, he was aware of its contents at the time because Reverend Bird had talked to him about it.

He confirmed he had refused to sign it because to do so could have been interpreted as an admission of guilt.

In a final exchange with Colin Haezlewood for Farran, he insisted the bishop had rung him on the day he was defrocked to tell him of the decision.

Farran had denied talking to Lawrence on that day, but Lawrence said he had “absolutely” taken a phone call from the then bishop, saying “otherwise I would have heard about it [his defrocking] on the 7.30 Report”.

That was because Farran had already arranged to be on television that night.

2.30pm: Former dean Greg Lawrence is now being asked by Mr Fitzgerald, counsel for CKH, on the correspondence between CKH and Lawrence and others in their group.

Mr Fitzgerald, counsel for witness CKH, who alleged Lawrence was one of an Anglican group of clerics who had sex with him.

Mr Fitzgerald, counsel for witness CKH, who alleged Lawrence was one of an Anglican group of clerics who had sex with him.

Although Mr Lawrence had earlier accepted that he had sent a pornographic card to CKH, he is now denying that another letter with its description of “group shots” should be taken to be a reference to pornographic pictures of group sex.

“It may be a diocesan occasion,” Mr Lawrence said.

When the chairman of the commission, Justice Peter McClellan, asked what the writer meant when he described the video as “educational”, Lawrence said he wasn’t sure, xcep to say that he was “certain” it was not pornographic.

“There is no proof or evidence it’s pornographic material,” Lawrence said to Fitzgerald. “That’s your take on it.”

2.10pm: The hearing is resuming after a slightly longer than normal lunch break.

Former Newcastle dean Graeme Lawrence has been examined by counsel assisting Naomi Sharp and is being questioned by Peter O’Brien by survivor CKA.

Counsel Peter O'Brien for CKA.

Counsel Peter O'Brien for CKA.

O’Brien puts it to Lawrence that others have said he was a paedophile.

“I totally reject that,” Lawrence says.

He denies being questioned in 1997 about allegations against him and has denied the evidence of others that he was the person at the end of a child sexual abuse hotline run by the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.

“I was not handling a hotline,” Lawrence said.

O’Brien: “You were the fox in charge of the hen house.”

“No.”

“You were protecting priests from allegations of child sexual abuse.”

“I did not.”

Asked whether he had “any inclination” to either a priest or a complainant” in any matter, Lawrence said: “I don’t recall any approaches.”

O’Brien: Apart from CKA?

Certainly.

Asked if Lawrence did not believe CKA, Lawrence said there was nothing in either the documentation or his evidence that could “lead you to that conclusion”.

1pm: Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp has concluded her questioning of former dean Graeme Lawrence and two counsel have indicated they wish to ask questions of him once the hearing resumes after the lunch break.

In this, the middle of three sessions for the day, Lawrence was asked about a letter that former bishop Brian Farran had written in which the bishop listed eight points of concern that he believed were central to poor culture in the diocese.

Lawrence said the letter was an exaggeration but there was truth in some of the points.

He said that by the time Farran had written that letter in 2010 he had been retired for two years and did not believe he was still the influential figure the bishop had painted him to be.

He denied he was a contributor to the culture that Farran had complained about.

He denied having an alliance with disgraced priest Peter Rushton and denied knowing that he “surrounded himself with boys”.

He said, though, that Rushton was “an iconic figure” in the diocese.

He said he did not know that Rushton had fostered a boy from the St Albans home until “the time of his death” in 2007.

He again denied Deacon Colvin Ford’s description of him as being part of a “gang of three” with the since defrocked cleric Bruce Hoare and former diocesan registrar Peter Mitchell who had protected Rushton.

He said he found it hard to believe that Reverend Rodney Bower would say that he, Bower, was intimidated by Lawrence, given that Bower had his wedding at Christ Church Cathedral and his wedding reception at the deanery.

He accepted that he did not have a “risk management procedure” at the cathedral when the twice convicted (1968 and 2002) paedophile Allan Kitchingman worshipped at the cathedral, saying “his only connection was to worship with his wife”.

“He came, he worshipped, he left,” Lawrence said of Kitchingman.

He was then questioned about his own worship at St Stephen’s Adamstown, and about a “safe ministry practice” that the cleric there, Reverend Chris Bird, had put in place in relation to Lawrence and his partner, Gregory Goyette.

The code of practice was shown to the hearing, and Lawrence said he had never seen it before.

This drew the attention of the chairman of the commission, Justice Peter McClellan, who wanted to know how Bird could assure the congregation he would ensure Lawrence and Goyette did what was asked of them if they did not know what they had to do.

Justice McClellan also pointed out that the document was dated September 2014. Lawrence retired as dean in 2008, spent a year in service at Wangaratta in 2009 and began worshipping at St Stephen’s upon his return to Newcastle that year.

McClellan asked Lawrence whether Bird was a supporter of his.

“He is my parish priest, he is a supportive person to both of us,” Lawrence said, referring to himself and Goyette.

Taken through a list of clerical sex abusers who had trained at St John’s college at Morpeth, Lawrence said it was “surprising” that any of the people there turned out to be offenders at all, although he argued that with 72 or so graduates a year, a lot of people would have trained there over time.

He said he was “unaware of any culture of sex or sex abuse” at the college.

“I was 20 years old, as most of us were, and we really had a useful time, a good time, and benefitted greatly because of what happened to us there,” Lawrence said.

The hearing is set to resume at 2pm on Wednesday.

11.47am: The commission has resumed and counsel assisting Naomi Sharp has obtained the lyrics to a the song “Thank Heavens for Little Girls” and asked Lawrence how that related to his “thank heavens for little boys” card.

Lawrence said there was a record company called “Lace Records” that took songs and changed the words to them and that there was nothing more to it than that.

Asked about references in correspondence to “KY Jelly” and “Lubefax”, Lawrence agreed that they were used in sexual acts, but noted those acts could be heterosexual as well as homosexual.

Questioned again about his relationship with CKH, Lawrence has disputed Sharp’s assertion that it was one of unethical imbalance as far as power was concerned.

Lawrence is now being questioned about his involvement in various official bodies within the diocese. Lawrence says “not many or any complaints came to any of those bodies”.

 Lawrence has again been asked about a phone call to the deanery, in which a police officer was looking for information in relation to the CKA/CKC case.

Lawrence has again insisted he believed the call was a hoax.

One question (suggested from the gallery) that might clear this up, would be to ask Lawrence that if he thought it was a hoax, why did he not ring the police to check.

Sharp has questioned Lawrence on his meetings with CKA in 1996 and 1999, and suggested he may have mixed up his dates, which he agreed was possible.

He was also taken to his evidence on Friday when had denied he was not at the court at CKC’s trial, as alleged by CKA.

He had written the name of the person he believed it was, a name revealed this morning as Rod Bower.

Asked by Sharp how he knew Bower was at the court if he was not there himself, Lawrence said it was because Bower had come across to Christ Church Cathedral after the court case with solicitor Keith Allen and the cleric CKC.

(Note: The Venerable Rod Bower, Archdeacon of the Central Coast, released a statement on Wednesday denying Lawrence’s claims. He said he conducted a funeral at Mackay Funerals at Palmdale on the day in question and that his diary shows he travelled 71km that day. “It was not possible I was in Newcastle on this occasion,” he said.)

11.20am: The commission has adjourned for the morning after taking Graeme Lawrence through the efforts that counsel assisting Naomi Sharp says that he took to stop the church, under then bishop Brian Farran, taking disciplinary action.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp at the hearing on Wednesday.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp at the hearing on Wednesday.

History shows that these legal actions were ultimately unsuccessful and that Lawrence was defrocked by Farran in 2012.

Asked why he “didn’t want anybody in the diocese to contemplate proceedings against” him, Lawrence said: “I didn’t trust anyone and I still don’t.”

As you will read below, much of Lawrence’s time in the stand today has been taken up with an exploration of the sexual relationship that the commission has alleged that Lawrence, his partner Gregory Goyette, and three other Anglican clergy, Andrew Duncan, Bruce Hoare,  had with a then-youth, code-named CKH, from 1979 until the mid-1980s.

CKH gave detailed evidence to the commission back in August.

Back then, CKH said: “There were various incidents that happened in my life that made me recognise that in some ways I would say now I had been duped and I began to realise that these sexual activities that I thought I had been in control of or party to were, in fact, in the nature of abuse and I began to take on that descriptor to describe my experience as a child.”

In his evidence, Lawrence has confirmed knowing CKH, and he has said he had had concerns at the time that Duncan was in a sexual relationship with the boy when he was 15 years old, or under the age of consent, as chairman Peter McClellan, pointed out.

Repeatedly challenged by Sharp as to whether he was telling the truth, Lawrence has each time insisted that he was. At one point, he said another youth allegedy involved in one of the sexual incidents, CKO, had also apparently denied that things took place as recounted by CKH.

Shown a series of greeting cards between CKH, Lawrence and Goyette – all of which had homosexual or homoerotic images on their covers, Lawrence has repeatedly described them as “light-hearted” and not evidence of a sexual relationship.

10.30am: Graeme Lawrence is again giving evidence:

Questioned by counsel assisting, Naomi Sharp, Lawrence has “completely” denied the allegations of sexual impropriety levelled against him by CKH.

Sharp is taking Lawrence one by one through the allegations against him made by CKH and relating to alleged sexual acts involving CKH with Lawrence and his partner, Gregory Goyette and three other clerics Andrew Duncan, Bruce Hoare, Graeme Sturt.

He is repeatedly denying these matters on oath.

In relation to a now infamous “thank heavens for little boys” card, Lawrence says the line is from a song by Maurice Chevalier.

At this stage, the commission’s chairman, Peter McClellan, observes that: “There’s a picture showing a penis on the card”.

Lawrence agrees, and confirms he wrote the inscription “now, isn’t that true”, on the card.

When Lawrence tries to say people need to “understand the song and the context of the song”, McClellan says “the song has nothing to do with naked penises, does it”.

Lawrence: No, it does not.”

After going through a series of cards that Sharp says are evidence of a sexual relationship involving Lawrence, Goyette and CKH, she comes to one in which CKH writes about “KY jelly”.

Asked what that meant, Lawrence said it was “fairly obvious”. Justice McClellan pressed him to explain, and he said: “I think it’s fairly obviously a send-up of some sexual things that could be used. I don’t think its an actuality.”

Sharp: You knew Goyette was having a sexual relationship with CKH.

Lawrence: I did not.

“Are you lying?”

“I’m not lying and it’s rude of you to say so.”

10am: The commission has reopened hearing evidence from former assistant bishop Richard Appleby, by telephone link.

With the royal commission now having looked at Appleby’s diaries, he has now accepted that his diary does indeed show him meeting with a person code-named CKA, which he had previously said he could find no record of this meeting, and had no recollection of it.

Questioned by the commission chairman, Peter McClellan, and the counsel assisting, Naomi Sharp, Appleby now accepts that his diary does record two meetings in 1984 with CKA but he is still saying that he has no recollection of this meeting.

Despite having no recollection, he still says that CKA would not have discussed child abuse at this meeting, because he would have remembered it.

One meeting was in July 1984 and another was the following month, August 1984.

The same day as the July meeting, Appleby’s diary records a meeting a few hours later with the then dean Graeme Lawrence.

Appleby agreed he would have met Lawrence, but has no memory of the meeting except to say it was “definitely not” about child sexual abuse.

Sharp asked Appleby why he had expressed “intense embarrassment” about finding that his original statement to the commission had said the meetings did not happen. He said it was a “careless mistake” that he did not find the meetings when going through the 1000 pages that constituted three years of relevant diaries.

He was also asked about a 1987 reference to a meeting involving lay figure Jim Brown. Again, Appleby accepted that this meeting probably happened, although he could not recall it, and that it would not have involved allegations that Brown had sexually abused a child because he did not learn of that until after he had retired.

In rrelation to CKA, Appleby told the commission that he in “no way” moved from his original evidence that if he did meet with CKA it was not about abuse by a priest because he would have reported it and remembered it.

He still insisted that it was most likely to be about “trauma” at CKA’s parish, which was upsetting a great number of parishioners, including CKA’s family.

He denied he was protecting himself by giving evidence the way he had.

Giving his evidence by telephone from rural England, Appleby was excused at about 10.30am, with former dean Graeme Lawrence resuming his evidence from last Friday.

9.30am, Wednesday, November 23: Good morning all, it’s Ian Kirkwood here, covering today’s events in the absence of my colleague Joanne McCarthy, who cannot be with us today.

Today is the scheduled second-last day of this case study, number 42 of the Royal Commission.

Last week, we finished on Friday with the former dean of Newcastle and rector of Christ Church Cathedral, Graeme Lawrence, have been in the witness box for about two-thirds of the day.

He was preceded by the current assistant Bishop of Newcastle, Peter Stuart.

The most recent witness list provided by the Royal Commission – dated Tuesday, November 22, has Lawrence as the 24th witness, with Bishop Richard Appleby, a former assistant bishop, to be “intersposed during Graeme Lawrence’s evidence”.

Appleby had already given evidence during the August hearings, and it is understood he has furnished the commission with a supplementary statement, indicating he may have had a better recall of historic events after hearing the evidence of others in the meantime.

Lawrence is then listed as witness 26, to be followed by John Cleary, the current business manager of the diocese, with the final witness scheduled to be the current Bishop of Newcastle, Greg Thompson. As always, the commission notes that the witness list is "indicative of order only and is subject to change”.

An official transcript of Friday’s evidence has been posted on the commission website, and can be read here. Simply scroll down the page and you will see the daily list of transcripts, starting with Friday’s.

For those interested in the Diocese of Newcastle’s response to the commission’s hearing, which is officially known as Case Study 42, it has a dedicated web page, which you can see here.

Catch up on Day 14 below: 

Anglican Newcastle Diocese Royal Commission web page

Anglican Newcastle Diocese Royal Commission web page