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A SOLICITOR and former trustee of the Anglican DIocese of Newcastle has admitted tearing up the original 1990 resignation of paedophile priest Stephen Hatley Gray, which was then replaced with one dated the day before Gray was charged with the sexual assault of a 14-year-old boy.
Central Coast solicitor Keith Allen, who began giving evidence to the Royal Commission on Friday, was again subjected to an intense examination by the commission’s chairman, Peter McClellan, and counsel assisting, Naomi Sharp.
The resignation letter of the disgraced priest Gray has featured in several segments of evidence so far.
In evidence last week, retired former Newcastle assistant Bishop Richard Appleby insisted he was instructed by his bishop, Bishop Holland, to drive to the Central Coast to obtain the resignation after a wild party at the church rectory.
But in Mr Allen’s evidence, it emerged that the letter discussed by Bishop Appleby in evidence – and shown to the commission as being hand-written on church letterhead – may not have been the original letter.
Justice McClellan: “We can conclude, can we, that the original resignation was destroyed and replaced by another one with an altered date? Can we conclude that you destroyed the original one?”
Allen: “My memory is I may have.”
McClellan: “ Just think about it really hard – may have or did you do it?”
Allen: “I think I did it, yes.”
Mr Allen said the date was relevant because a resignation dated February 11, 1990 – the day before Gray was charged – meant he would still be “in good standing” and so able to be appointed to another parish.
McClellan: “The document on its face is false and will allow a false representation to be made, wouldn’t it?”
McClellan: “You were party to the circumstances in which the false document was created, weren’t you?”
Allen: “Yes, I certainly destroyed the first resignation.”
McClellan: “It looks like a fraud, doesn’t it? It is a false representation as to his status?”
Allen: “It could be described as that.”
The commission then heard that Gray was given a three-year-good behaviour bond and fined $100 for the anal rape of the 14-year-old boy, which Mr Allen agreed was “a very generous” treatment by the court.
Mr Allen disputed Justice McClellan’s assessment that he had participated in a “ruse” to help Gray despite knowing he was “a dangerous sexual predator”.
In other evidence on Monday morning, Mr Allen repeatedly denied advising former Newcastle Bishop Alfred Holland not to have any recollection about the events the royal commission was interested in.
This was despite the contents of a February 2015 file note kept by Newcastle Anglican diocese business manager John Cleary.
Justice McClellan: “The question is, did you say, as previously advised on some prior occasion that, as Holland’s legal adviser you would be advising him that he cannot recall anything?”
Mr Allen: “Not in those words, sir.”
McClellan: “These words (in the file note) have you saying or that you would advise Holland to say he cannot recall anything. That’s not a question of not giving evidence, that’s telling him to act dumb.”
Allen: ”No sir.”
Shortly before the 1pm adjournment, Mr Allen was questioned about a church register that helped another priest, CKC, escape conviction over a sexual assault case that has also been the subject of other evidence before the commission.
Counsel assisting Ms Sharp asked Mr Allen whether he had “any view about the appropriateness of a solicitor being left alone with a document and then having that document subsequently produced under a subpoena of the court”?
Allen: “I had neither a biro, a pencil, a rubber or any other thing and I just merely looked at the register on the table. It may be that [former church rector] COH should have remained in the room all the time, I don’t know. I don’t have a view and I didn`t alter or touch the register.”
The hearing continues.