TWO Anglican priests, including retired dean of Newcastle Reverend Graeme Lawrence, will mount damages claims against Newcastle Anglican diocese in February after a NSW Supreme Court judge agreed yesterday that the diocese had a case to answer over its handling of disciplinary proceedings against the two men.
The diocese agreed to an order not to proceed further with sanctions against Reverend Lawrence and Reverend Graeme Sturt until a hearing of the issues in February, following professional standards board hearings against four clergy and a church worker this week.
The hearings against Reverend Lawrence and Reverend Sturt related to breach of trust issues. Both men denied the allegations.
In the Supreme Court yesterday before Justice Patricia Bergin, SC, the two priests filed a claim seeking an order quashing professional standards board determinations made against them on Wednesday.
They will seek to have the determinations ruled invalid, a declaration that the professional standards board failed to observe procedural fairness, that the diocese be permanently restrained from giving effect to the determination, and damages.
The solicitor for the two men, John Woodward, said the damages claim related to the publishing and distribution of the board's determinations to the public and media after Wednesday's hearing.
Mr Woodward said the priests were also "currently contemplating defamation action".
Media reports of the hearings were tendered to the court.
The Newcastle Herald has been advised another priest will launch separate legal action in the new year.
The Supreme Court action followed challenges to the professional standards board process this week and claims that it was "down there believing it's a court when it's not a court".
The criticism prompted Bishop Brian Farran to issue a statement to all clergy on Thursday in which he distanced himself from the proceedings and referred complaints to professional standards committee chairman Geoff Spring.