THEY are Hunter child sex offenders the Catholic Church protected for decades – priest Vince Ryan and Marist Brothers Thomas Butler and Francis Cable.
They are now the focus of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing into Maitland-Newcastle diocese, starting on August 29.
The royal commission formally announced the details of a hearing on Wednesday after the Newcastle Herald reported on Saturday the Hunter would be the focus of back-to-back royal commission hearings – into the Anglican Church from August 2, and then the Catholic Church.
The royal commission will sit in Newcastle four years after the Herald’s Shine the Light campaign for a royal commission, and four years after the suicide of child sex victim John Pirona, whose death became the catalyst for the campaign.
The royal commission will consider the case of Catholic priest Vince Ryan, who was the subject of serious child sex allegations to Maitland-Newcastle diocese in the early 1970s, but was not arrested and charged until victims spoke to police in 1995.
In 2007 the Herald reported how Monsignor Patrick Cotter “decided to say nothing” after a number of reports of Ryan’s offending, sent the priest to Melbourne for a year and then was involved in his return to the Hunter to continue offending.
The royal commission will also consider the cases of Marist Brothers Thomas Butler (Brother Patrick) and Francis Cable (Brother Romuald), and how Catholic authorities, including senior Marist Brothers and school representatives, responded to allegations about both men.
Cable was convicted of child sex offences against 19 boys at Marist Brothers schools at Maitland, Hamilton and Pagewood and sentenced to 16 years’ jail. He taught at Maitland in the 1960s and Hamilton between 1971 and 1974.
The royal commission is expected to hear evidence from former students who reported allegations within the school and to police. The royal commission is also expected to hear evidence from Hamilton woman Audrey Nash, 90, whose son Andrew, 13, hanged himself in 1974 in the year that Romuald was his year master.
The royal commission is also expected to hear evidence from former students of Brother Patrick (Thomas Butler), a teacher at Marist Brothers Hamilton in 1952, between 1963 and 1965 and from 1970 to 1980.
The Marist Brothers have publicly acknowledged receiving complaints about Brother Patrick over an extended period.
The royal commission will hear evidence of the impacts of child sexual abuse on survivors, families and the community in the Maitland-Newcastle region.
”Any person or institution who believes that they have a direct and substantial interest in the scope and purpose of the public hearing is invited to lodge a written application for leave to appear at the public hearing by 8 August 2016,” a royal commission statement released on Wednesday said.
Both the Anglican and Catholic public hearings are open to the public, and will be held at Newcastle Courthouse.