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- Prominent people supported Lawrence after his defrocking
- Removalist says he saw child porn in Rushton’s rectory
- Confidential report on yellow envelopes
- Solicitor Allen grilled for third day on abuse
- Solicitor denies “fixing” statement to Royal Commission
- Do nothing approach revealed
- Sex with priests began at age of 14
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THE Royal Commission has heard sensational evidence about a secret filing system of “brown envelopes” used in the Newcastle Anglican church under former Bishop Roger Herft.
The commission heard there would have been more than 20 cases detailed in the brown envelopes. Detail of the history of child sexual abuse at the church’s Morpeth seminary were also said to be held in the church archives, stored at the University of Newcastle.
Detail of the brown envelopes emerged when the royal commission showed solicitor and former “ear to three Bishops”, Keith Allen, a file note of a meeting held in early 2015 with the diocesan business manager John Cleary.
The file note also revealed Mr Allen believed the church had influence over the police until quite recently and that the former dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, would be a focus of the royal commission and any police investigation and that Lawrence would ‘’bring others down’’.
Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp quoted from the file note: “Cleary records you saying that the biggest concern in the Newcastle diocese was Bishop Roger Herft. He indicated that Herft will be in trouble. This was mainly because of Herft’s handling of the Brown envelopes through Herft’s Brown envelope advisory/review committee”.
Mr Allen said a small committee of which he was a member would advise the bishop on the matters in the envelopes but he repeatedly insisted that none of the committee members knew any identifying details.
Mr Allen said there probably more than 20 brown envelopes but he could not say how many of them involved sexual abuse by priests.
The commission heard that Mr Allen had been removed from his diocesan posts by the current bishop, Greg Thompson, who had been concerned about Mr Allen’s deep involvement with the way the diocese had handled sexual abuse matters historically.
The file note included references to Mr Allen saying the best approach to dealing with the royal commission was to say: “You have no files or notes and that you can only rely on your memory. This will prevent cross examination by lawyers.”
Mr Allen has repeatedly prefaced his answers by saying he had no notes of the issues being discussed and was relying entirely on his memory.
Asked by Justice Peter McClellan whether he had been following his own advice, Mr Allen eventually said: “I suppose I am.”
The hearing continues.