Former Newcastle Anglican Dean Graeme Lawrence and the fall from grace

Arrested: Former Newcastle Anglican Dean Graeme Lawrence in 2008 after announcing his retirement. He was defrocked in 2012 and charged with child sex offences on Tuesday.
Arrested: Former Newcastle Anglican Dean Graeme Lawrence in 2008 after announcing his retirement. He was defrocked in 2012 and charged with child sex offences on Tuesday.

GRAEME Lawrence was the charismatic 13th Anglican Dean of Newcastle who supported the Hunter through the 1989 earthquake, the 2005 Bali bombing and the 2007 floods, and was honoured for his work by a grateful community.

He declined to comment on Tuesday after police charged him with sexually assaulting a teenage boy, 15, in the early 1990s, following a referral in 2016 from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It marked another point in a fall from grace for the former Anglican priest that has included the public airing of sexual abuse allegations at a Newcastle Anglican disciplinary hearing in 2010, a failed Supreme Court appeal against its findings in 2011, his defrocking in 2012 and denial of child sex allegations during questioning at a royal commission public hearing in Newcastle in 2016.

Mr Lawrence, 75, was arrested at a Kotara home by Newcastle City Local Area Command Strike Force Arinya police at 8.30am on Tuesday and charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.

In a statement NSW Police said the charges related to “alleged sexual assaults upon a 15-year-old boy in the Hunter region during 1991”.

He was granted conditional bail to appear at Newcastle Local Court on December 7.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon Newcastle Anglican Diocese said it had been advised of the arrest of one of its former priests but could not comment because the matter was before the courts.

Bishop Peter Stuart said that each allegation of sexual abuse was “a matter of deep shame and regret to the people of the diocese”.

The diocese continued to encourage survivors of abuse to contact police, he said.

A royal commission public hearing in Newcastle in August, 2016 was told Dean Lawrence was a powerful and influential churchman. During evidence to the commission Mr Lawrence denied sexually abusing a teenage boy at a church youth camp in the 1990s.

He became the 13th Anglican Dean of Newcastle after moving from Griffith to Newcastle in 1984.

In 2007 he was made a Freeman of the City at a Newcastle community awards ceremony for eminent achievement in the service to the Newcastle community.

He received the award for his “contribution to community spirit, wellbeing and pride”.

He received an Order of Australia in 1998.