Newcastle Herald journalists wrap-up day 10 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has ended hearing evidence on the 10th day of the Newcastle Anglican public hearing.
The hearing will resume at 9.30am on Tuesday, August 30.
Solicitor Mr Healy has started asking the archbishop questions on behalf of solicitor Keith Allen, the man who gave evidence in the earliest part of the public hearing that he had “the ears” of three bishops.
Healy is questioning Herft about the yellow or brown envelopes.
Barrister Lachlan Gyles for Bishop Greg Thompson is now questioning Archbishop Herft.
Herft was in Newcastle in January, and made contact with Thompson. They had lunch.
Thompson wrote a file note after the lunch.
Thompson recorded Herft saying Graeme Lawrence appointed some of the archdeacons, which Herft said created a problem for him.
Gyles: “Do you also recall speaking to Bishop Thompson about hostility you had felt you had received from some of those archdeacons around the time you commenced?”
Herft: “Yes, I remember reflecting with Bishop Thompson on that matter.”
Herft said he met with hostility about issues, including the appointment of women clergy.
Herft said he couldn’t comment on whether the people who were hostile were also supporters of Graeme Lawrence.
Herft is now giving evidence about what he said about solicitor Keith Allen, a person Thompson shouldn’t be too “trusting in”.
Herft said he had not kept a file note of the meeting, which he described as a “very convivial lunch”.
Gyles: “Can I suggest to you that where you have disagreement with Bishop Thompson about his file note, that his recollection may be better than yours?”
Herft said he had no comment to make on that.
Solicitor Mr O’Connell is now questioning the archbishop on behalf of several child sexual abuse survivors including CKA.
O’Connell has just put to Herft that he did nothing in response to the detailed allegations made by CKA about child sexual abuse. Herft denied it, but could not say what he had done.
Herft has told the hearing that when CKA made a written complaint in 1999, Herft didn’t go to police, but sought advice from Paul Rosser.
In 1996 CKA specifically wrote the words “I need help” in his letter to the diocese. In 1999 CKA wrote that his marriage had failed and he was very stressed.
Herft said the letter to CKA on January 22, 1999 in response to CKA’s appeals was formal and legalistic, and lacked compassion.
It includes the line: “As I believe I have tried to make clear to you during our conversations on Friday manuary 8th and Saturday january 9th, and previously in April 1996, I am willing to be of assistance to you and to offer you the facilities which the church has, in any helpful and positive way.”
Herft and O’Connell have had exchanges in terms of what Herft knew about Graeme Lawrence. O’Connell has put to Herft that his failing to have any memory of allegations about Lawrence was “absolute rubbish”.
Herft responded: “I’m not sure that I need to respond to that, sir.”
Herft denied having suspicions about Lawrence at the time of CKA’s complaints in 1996 and 1999. He told the royal commission he felt Lawrence had responded to CKA carefully.
O’Connell: “Would you agree that a man who himself is an abuser would be unlikely to show the requisite sensitivity required in matters such as this?”
Herft: “My experience of Dean Lawrence during that time was that when there were matters in respect of the matters like the CKA matter, that he dealt with them carefully and diligently. I had no reason to suspect that there was an underlying concern regarding his own integrity at that time.”
O’Connell: “I suggest that not only did you have suspicions about Lawrence, at the least you neglected to turn your mind to the question of whether Lawrence was the appropriate person to deal with Mr CKA, let alone any complaint involving child sexual abuse?”
Herft: “The question I had at that moment was why my office was not contacted by CKA directly.”
O’Connell is questioning Herft about why he did not advise the diocese of Ballarat about allegations relating to the Newcastle priest CKC. Herft agreed he did not send any advice.
Herft has referred to a church protocol known as “Safe to Receive”.
Herft: “I did not refer to the Bishop of Ballarat about the complaint from CKA.”
Herft has agreed he did not follow the “Safe to Receive” protocol in relation to CKC.
The archbishop is now being questioned about a media release on behalf of the diocese, dated 2001, giving two versions of the possible outcome from the trial of CKC – that he was found guilty, or not guilty.
As we now know, the trial of CKC on child sex allegations made by CKA and his brother, CKB, was discontinued after late evidence, produced by the diocese, in the form of a parish register supporting the priest’s view of events. The royal commission has also heard evidence about senior diocese representatives being left with the register for periods of time, and the register providing a form of alibi for CKC.
The draft statements of the trial outcomes quote Herft extensively.
O’Connell is now putting to Herft that he knew, from as early as 2000, that Keith Allen and Paul Rosser were representing the priest CKC, that Graeme Lawrence was providing support to him, and that he, Herft, was kept abreast of events in the trial by Allen and Rosser.
Herft said he was “uneasy” about Allen and Rosser’s involvement in the case on behalf of CKC. He did not speak to them.
Herft has acknowledged that the diocese’s statement after the CKC trial, in which it said the priest had been acquitted, was wrong.
Herft is now being questioned about an article written by Peter Mitchell for an Anglican newsletter, which included saying “The reality is the Crown did not have a case against CKC and was heavily criticised by the judge for attempting to bring action against him under those circumstances.”
O’Connell has just put to Herft that he had “failed miserably” when it came to providing care and support for CKA.
“Herft: “I failed CKA in not providing the relevant pastoral care and not seeking to engae with him directly thorugh my office, and assuming that this relationship, the pastoral relationship that he had had with the Dean, was one that was helpful to him.”
O’Connell: “Is it the case that you were more concerned in keeping in the good graces with the power bloc within the church than you were in looking after the pastoral care of CKA?”
Herft: “No sir, I was not, and CKC was certainly not a part of a power bloc that I could identify.”
O’Connell: “Would you accept that in failing to report the complaints to the police, you were in fact complicit in enabling a perpetrator to potentially commit further harm?”
Herft: “I don’t believe I was complicit in the matter. I – looking back, I would certainly have made that complaint much sooner – yes.”
O’Connell has just quoted the Bible at Herft, the words of the gospel of Matthew, 18: 4-6.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it would it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck or he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”
O’Connell: “You would agree that those are very strong words.”
O’Connell: “Do you accept that at no stage did you show, in relation to CKA and his complaints, that level of outrage?”
Herft: “Yes, I did not show and did not have opportunity to show CKA what I truly felt about the matters.”
O’Connell has denied telling CKA at a meeting in 2003 that Herft said CKC’s licence would be revoked as a result of the trial.
O’Connell: “I suggest to your that your inadequate responses have caused great offence to my client, Mr CKA?”
Herft: “Yes, sir, I agree with that.”
O’Connell put the question to Herft: “At any at all have you considered resigning?”
Herft started to answer, saying: “I’m not sure that’s a question that...”
Justice McClellan said he was not going to allow the question.
O’Connell finished his questions.
The Royal Commission has resumed after the lunch break.
Archbishop Roger Herft is being questioned about his handling of the legal case against the priest CKC, accused of sexually abusing a boy in the 1970s.
Herft wrote to Keith Allen in 2002 response to Allen’s concerns about the availability of parish registers as records that can be used in court.
Herft responded: “I believe it is quite critical that the diocesan manager, the Dean, you (Keith Allen), Jean Sanders and I… meet in the not too distant future to consider the risk aspects and the channels of information sharing regarding the sexual harassment matters concerning clergy within and outside the diocese.”
Herft has been asked about a letter he wrote to incoming Bishop Brian Farran.
In the letter Herft writes: “I inherited Peter as an archdeacon and recall that at least on one occasion I sought to have his licence removed on the basis that he was found in possession of adult pornographic material. I was seeking to discipline him on the grounds of conduct unbecoming a clergyperson. He brought a lawyer with him and it became clear that if I had acted they would have taken the diocese and myself to court. Their defence was that it was something that he did in the privacy of his home and did not impact upon other people. As you can imaging I took a different position. Even though I never viewed the material I reckoned it was something that impacted on the spiritual health of a priest.
“All of these matters should be in the separate records kept concerning matters of conduct unbecoming of clergy in the safe in the diocese. The material now forthcoming of abuse against minors puts his offending in a category that can only be described as diabolical. The impact on those abused and their families is devastating.”
Herft earlier on Monday told the royal commission he believed Rushton had repented.
Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp has asked Herft to explain the difference between his view expressed today, and the view in his letter that if Herft acted, Rushton would take court action.
Sharp: “Is the reason you didn’t take action against Rushton was concern he would take the diocese to court?”
Chairman Justice Peter McClellan has just asked Herft why the diocese didn’t act against Rushton, if it was the right thing to do.
The royal commission has just blocked Herft’s response. The public hearing was told several weeks ago that charges against an Anglican priest were likely. The royal commission appears to be withholding some evidence from Archbishop Herft that potentially touches on possible legal proceedings.
Sharp is now questioning Herft about youth worker and lay reader James Brown, who was charged in 1996 with sexually abusing a child while a lay reader for the Anglican diocese.
Sharp: “He wasn’t licensed as a lay reader during your time as bishop. He was charged in 1996 with sexually abusing a child during his time with the Anglican diocese.” (Brown was by that stage with the Baptist church.)
Sharp: “You were never made aware he was charged?”
Sharp: “You were never made aware your deputy chancellor Paul Rosser acted as legal representative for James Brown?”
Sharp has just asked Herft to comment on the fact that because he was not made aware Brown was charged, he was not able to provide support to Brown’s victim for offences that occurred while Brown worked for the Anglican diocese.
Herft agreed he couldn’t provide the support.
Sharp is now questioning Herft about the contents of the yellow envelopes.
McClellan: “There’s no envelope for Graeme Lawrence. Should there have been an envelope?”
McClellan: “If it doesn’t exist, what’s the explanation for that?”
Herft: “I have no explanation.”
(The archbishop has been questioned today about three separate times in the 1990s when different people raised serious child sex allegations with him.)
Sharp is questioning Herft about a letter in April 2004 to Herft, about allegations relating to a person known to the royal commission as DDA. Herft reported those allegations to police. He has just agreed that he changed his view about reporting child sexual abuse matters between 1998 and 2004.
Sharp is questioning Herft about a file note he made relating to a trainee priest called Robert Elmore.
An Anglican priest met with Herft in 1998 to report that his two young daughters had been raped by Elmore at St Johns Theological College, Morpeth.
Sharp is now questioning Herft about a report of a priest known as DAL taking a boy to Oxford Street, Sydney, drug-taking, and a note shows Herft was advised.
Herft said he had no recollection.
Sharp is now questioning Herft about complaints against another priest accused of inappropriate touching of an altar girl. Although police advised they were not taking the matter further, Herft was asked in a letter how the church planned to respond.
Herft advised police he had no way of “ascertaining the truth of the matter” but steps would be put in place in relation to the priest.
Sharp is questioning Herft about his actions once allegations were raised about a priest. Herft contacted a bishop at the diocese where the priest was then working.
Sharp is now questioning Herft about priest Allan Kitchingman.
Herft has agreed Kitchingman was a parishioner at the cathedral and a friend of Graeme Lawrence.
During Herft’s tenure as bishop, Kitchingman was convicted of a child sex offence.
After the conviction there was an anonymous letter to Jean Sanders after a report in the Newcastle Herald in 2002 indicating Kitchingman was of good character before the conviction.
The diocese received an anonymous letter after the article, suggesting Kitchingman had an earlier conviction. Graeme Lawrence provided the court with a character reference.
Sharp: “Did you ever speak with Graeme Lawrence about whether he knew of the prior offending before providing this reference?”
Herft: “No I didn’t. In fact, it came as a surprise to Dean Lawrence. He had no knowledge that there was offending that had taken place previously in the diocese.”
Sharp is questioning Herft about allegations about an organist believed to be a serial paedophile, who obtained a diocese clearance to work, despite allegations.
The Royal Commission has adjourned for the lunch break.
Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft remains in the witness box on the 10th day of the public hearing into how Newcastle Anglican diocese has responded to child sex allegations in the past.
The Royal Commission has resumed after the morning break.
Herft is being questioned about a letter from a Dr Johnson who spoke to Peter Rushton at Herft’s request. The letter is dated 8 December, 1998.
Dr Johnson spoke to Herft after pornographic material was found at Rushton’s home.
Johnson, in some respect, settled Herft’s concerns.
Herft is now being questioned about his earlier evidence to the royal commission after diocese professional standards committee head Jean Sanders said she raised an allegation about Rushton with Herft in 2003.
The allegation related to a priest’s son.
Sharp: “Weren’t you on high alert once this allegation was drawn to your attention, in view of the past dealings you had had with Rushton about the pornography?”
Herft responded that Rushton’s “whole demeanour had changed and deep in my heart I felt that he had repented, that somehow a change had taken place in his heart.. and that redemption somehow had come to this individual”.
Herft has agreed it was “remiss” of him to not follow up the allegation with Rushton.
Herft: “It was remiss of me not to push Jean Sanders and the contact person to provide me with further information about this.”
Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp is now questioning Herft about one of the yellow envelopes containing child sex allegations against a priest known as DBJ.
Jean Sanders has written to Herft on February 20, 2003 about an offence in the diocese of Newcastle, and three dioceses are involved – Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle.
She provides Herft with a file from the Sydney diocese. Herft says he cannot recall the detail of the file, but the file suggests the document was received. The complaint relates to four men, one at Wallsend church.
Herft said he could not recall it.
Sharp: “This is a further situation in which an allegation is made against Peter Rushton, is it not?”
Herft: “My recollection is … the person seemed to indicated it was something the person had heard about, but wasn’t altogether sure of.”
Herft said he “can’t recall” if he was advised of an allegation that Rushton had his “own group of boys”.
Sharp: “his own group of boys. You couldn’t have been in any doubt that the allegation was one of sexual impropriety, could you?”
Herft: “Yes, that’s true.”
Sharp: “Surely you were on high alert by this time that something was going on with Peter Rushton?”
Herft: “I’m not sure that the word ‘high alert’ could be used in that particular context.”
Sharp: “You had ultimate responsibility for the clergy licensed in your diocese, didn’t you?”
Herft: “I agree with that, yes.”
Sharp: “Is it right that you could have spoken with Peter Rushton about these allegations?”
Sharp has put to Herft that there were alarm bells ringing about Rushton by 2003.
Herft: “That is true. I was deeply fooled, I think, into believing that this person, one, his health had suffered and there was an element of compassion in that, the other was that I seriously believed that he had, you know, changed his.. in terms of his own life and ministry and everything. Now that does not prevent me to look seriously at his past record and deal with it, and I did not.”
Herft is now being questioned about the Anglican trainee priest Ian Barrack, jailed for child sex offences.
Herft has told the royal commission he was not shown an objectionable novelty toy – described as a man having sex with an animal – given to a 14-year-old boy living with his mother at St John’s Theological College at Morpeth. The boy’s mother was a student at the college.
The royal commission was told there was a report to the then Department of Community Services, and police were involved, and Herft was at a meeting where the diocese was advised it was not a criminal matter.
Herft sought legal advice in 1999 and wrote to other Australian bishops that Barrack should not be appointed to other dioceses without bishops contacting Herft.
Sharp: “In 2002 you were made aware that in fact there were far more serious allegations about what Ian barrack had done with this boy?”
Sharp: “It is right you were made aware in 2002 that in fact Ian Barrack had sexually assaulted this boy?”
The matter was reported directly to police by the victim.
The victim’s mother made a statement to the royal commission that she told Jean Sanders in 2003 about abuse of her son.
Herft has conceded it was a “serious omission” on his part that he did not advise Jean Sanders about the 2002 allegations.
The victim’s mother, in her statement, said Sanders told her about a meeting with Herft, the diocese solicitor Robert Caddies, diocese business manager Bruce Hockman and solicitor and trust member Keith Allen, during which she said Sanders said it was stated the allegations against Barrack would never go to court.
Herft conceded the diocese owed a duty of pastoral care to Barrack’s victim and mother, and there were “gaps” in its support for them.
Sharp is about to question Herft about a letter written by Graeme Lawrence in May 1996. It refers to Herft being absent from the diocese, and in his absence receiving an allegation of sexual abuse.
In the letter Lawrence says he has kept a note on it in his file.
Herft said there was a sexual abuse hotline, but “as to why the Dean would be receiving this type of complaint, certainly it wasn’t within his ambit, but he was the senior administrator when I was absent”.
The complaint was made by a man identified to the royal commission as CKA, who gave evidence at an earlier part of this public hearing about being sexually abused over a long period by an Anglican priest in the 1970s.
Herft is giving evidence about advice he received from lawyer Paul Rosser, who was a worshipper at Christ Church Cathedral.
There was a meeting between Herft and Rosser in 1999, in which Rosser was advised of allegations made to Graeme Lawrence in 1996 and 1999. Rosser said the matter “needs to be firmed up by the Dean” with clear advice that the matter needed to be reported to the police.
Herft was asked when he became aware that Rosser represented a Newcastle Anglican priest who was charged with offences against CKA.
He said he thought he became aware when there were media reports.
Herft has conceded he became aware lawyer Keith Allen represented the priest charged with offences against CKA.
Herft was asked questions about a letter from Keith Allen advising Herft of progress on the case.
Herft agreed it was completely inappropriate for Rosser to have a role with the diocese and represent a priest accused of child sexual abuse.
Herft is now being questioned about a letter sent to him by lawyer Keith Allen, representing the priest CKC, after the matter was no billed.
In the letter Allen thanked Herft for the “consideration and care” he showed CKC during the trial period.
Sharp: “You provided some sort of consideration and care for him during that period, didn’t you?”
Herft: “I can’t recall that.”
Herft is also being questoned about a complaint sent to Herft by CKC: “It is a great pity that the church chose to expend its resources and personnel in defence of CKC and the bloody-minded attempt to destroy myself and the reputation of my family, who have contributed so much to the Anglican Church.“
Herft: “I and the church failed miserably in our response to CKA in not providing pastoral care and certainly in terms of, you know, key personnel who had some role within the diocese acting on behalf of CKC. I acknowledge that and I’m deeply saddened by what took place.”
Sharp: “Have you ever reflected on how it would have looked to CKA to have the deputy chancellor of the diocese acting on behalf of CKC?”
Herft: “Yes, I have.”
Sharp: “What reflection have you come up with?”
Herft: “The anguish that CKA had already gone through would have been further accentuated by his knowledge that there were people within, you know, with significant responsibility in the life of the church acting on behalf of the perpetrator of this act.”
Royal Commission morning session of day 10 of the Newcastle Anglican diocese public hearing recap:
Archbishop Roger Herft has returned to the witness box at the royal commission sitting in Newcastle and almost immediately he’s faced strong challenges to his evidence, both at a previous royal commission hearing and this current hearing.
At an earlier hearing Herft said that during his time as Bishop of Newcastle from 1993 to 2005, “No one ever raised with me either directly or indirectly any matter that would have brought concern to me regarding the behaviour or otherwise of the Dean of Newcastle”.
Herft has agreed this morning that he received serious allegations about Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence in 1995, 1997 and 1999, from three separate sources including another bishop and a priest, and he spoke to Lawrence on those three occasions and accepted his denials.
Herft also told the royal commission he had no recollection of any of those meetings, with either complainants or Lawrence. He has had to accept they occurred because of documents produced to the royal commission by Newcastle diocese, showing letters he wrote to one complainant, and his attendance at meetings where the allegations were discussed.
The royal commission has just adjourned for the morning tea break.
Counsel assisting the royal commission, Naomi Sharp, is tendering documents at the start of the 10th day of the public hearing into the Newcastle Anglican Church’s responses to child sex allegations over decades.
The main hearing room of the commission, on the 6th floor of Newcastle Courthouse, is full, and the media is two floors down in an overflow room that’s also nearly full with many members of the public.
After a dramatic final few minutes when the hearing adjourned several weeks ago, with evidence from Archbishop Roger Herft, more people seem to be attending.
The archbishop is giving evidence about a letter from him to a couple showing he spoke to former Newcastle Dean Graeme Lawrence after the couple reported allegations Lawrence sexually abused a boy.
Herft has repeated his evidence that he has no memory of speaking to Lawrence.
He has conceded he has “no doubt” he met with Lawrence, despite having no memory.
In his letter to Bronwyn and Robert Wall in 1995, Herft wrote “Further to your meeting with me I have raised your particular concerns with the priest against whom the allegations were made and he has clearly informed me that as far as he is concerned he is not aware of any indiscretion”.
“If the matter is to be pursued further the person who came to you would need to follow the process formally.”
Naomi Sharp has just put to Herft that what was put to him were extremely allegations.
Sharp: “How is it possible that you have absolutely no memory of meeting with one of the most powerful men in the diocese about these serious allegations?”
“Do you have any explanation whatsoever as to why you have no recollection of this meeting?”
Sharp has just put to Herft that Mr Wall has told the royal commission that Herft basically told him that what he was saying about Lawrence was defamatory.
Herft replied that he could not comment on that.
Sharp has asked Herft to comment on a diocese committee wanting to obtain legal advice about defamation relating to sexual abuse allegations.
Sharp: “Was the desire to obtain an advice on defamation law at this time in any way motivated by dealings you had had with Graeme Lawrence about issues of child sexual abuse?”
Sharp is now questioning Herft about a letter written in 1996 by Rev Brian Kelly with “a clear allegation that (Graeme Lawrence) has engaged in sexual activity with young boys”.
The letter was written to Archbishop Harry Goodhew.
Brian Kelly writes again in 1997 and advises he hasn’t received any advice as to the outcome of the allegations, and says he plans to take it to the Wood Royal Commission, which was then considering child sexual abuse allegations.
A note on the letter appears to indicate Archbishop Goodhew spoke to Bishop Roger Herft and “he has already talked with (Lawrence) who has denied any wrongdoing in the past”.
Sharp: “This note suggests that Archbishop Goodhew had spoken with you about allegations against Graeme Lawrence. Do you have a recollection of a conversation with Archbishop Goodhew about this?”
Herft: “I have no recollection of a conversation with Archbishop Goodhew, but I have no reason to doubt his statement.”
Sharp: “Have you any explanation for why you have no recollection whatsoever of this matter?”
Herft has just given a lengthy response in which he’s wondered why Goodhew didn’t write to him, because the diocese could not find any letter from him to Herft.
Chairman Justice Peter McClellan has just stepped in and the two are discussing why there are no notes of any of these allegations.
McClellan: “It is not just the conversation with Goodhew that should have been noted, it is all these conversations.”
McClellan: “You should have made a note of them, shouldn’t you?”
McClellan: “It might suggest, Bishop, that you didn’t want to note the these things because someone might come along later and find them?”
Herft: “I have never had a hesitation of making records about this.”
McClellan: “Then perhaps it is also open to the suggestion that you actually didn’t take these matters as seriously as you should because you didn’t note them.”
McClellan just put to Herft that he failed, and Herft agreed.
Sharp has now taken Herft to a statement by Bishop Bruce Clark who said he received a phone call from a male who said the church would be aware that Graeme Lawrence was a sexual abuser. He did not specifically mention children.
Clark told the royal commission Bishop Herft “undertook to follow up on the allegations and informed me later when we met at a function that he had approached Graeme Lawrence who had denied them”.
Herft has just told the royal commission he had no memory of the conversations with Clark or Lawrence. Herft said he had no reason to doubt the accuracy of Clark’s statement.
Sharp has told the royal commission the Walls told Herft about allegations about Graeme Lawrence in 1995, Goodhew told him of allegations in 1997, and now Clark made similar allegations in 1999, and in all occasions he spoke to Lawrence who denied the allegations.
Sharp: “Why do you have no recollection whatsoever of speaking to Graeme Lawrence?”
Herft: “I have no understanding as to why that recollection hasn’t come to me.”
Sharp: “Are you protecting Graeme Lawrence?”
Herft: “Certainly not.”
Sharp: “Are you intimidated by Graeme Lawrence?”
Herft: “I’m not intimidated by Graeme Lawrence.”
Sharp: Can you account to this commission in any way, shape or form about why you cannot tell this commission anything about your conversations with Graeme Lawrence about allegations of child sexual abuse?”
Herft has just given another lengthy response about why there are no file notes.
Sharp has just taken Herft to evidence he gave to the royal commission at an earlier public hearing into the Anglican diocese, in which he said “When I became Bishop of Newcastle in 1993, through to 2005, no one ever raised with me either directly or indirectly any matter that would have brought concern to me regarding the behaviour or otherwise of the Dean of Newcastle”.
Herft has just conceded his previous evidence was incorrect.
He has just been taken to his statement to this public hearing, that “To the best of my knowledge I cannot recall the Dean’s name being connected to child abuse in my time as Bishop”.
Herft has agreed that statement is inaccurate.
Sharp has just been shown a letter from the diocese’s professional standards director Michael Elliott to Herft in 2010, in which Elliott says he has documents suggesting that allegations of sexual abuse of minors were made against Graeme Lawrence.
Herft’s response included a complaint that Elliott’s letter was “not sent in a customary sealed envelope” and he was concerned the confidential nature of the correspondence had been compromised.
Herft says he has no immediate recall of what the documents indicated.
Herft has confirmed there was no yellow or brown envelope relating to allegations against Lawrence.
At the earlier part of the royal commission public hearing we heard that the diocese worked on a system, in the past, of allegations being kept in yellow, gold or brown envelopes and held by a select number of senior people in the diocese.
Herft has just been asked about an apparent complaint within his response to Michael Elliott and is giving a very long-winded response about Elliott’s letter being sent to the professional standards director in Perth.
Herft has been questioned about why he wrote to Elliott: “I presently consider the timing and the channelling of your correspondence through Perth’s director of professional standards to be a matter of deep concern requiring an explanation from you”.
Sharp: “It sounds like you’re going on the offensive here.”
Herft: “I’m not going on the offensive, I’m asking why the usual processes of raising a question with an individual wasn’t followed.”
Sharp: “Are you worried that Mr Elliott’s inquiries cast a shadow over your own involvement in the matter of Graeme Lawrence?”
Herft: “I didn’t think of it at that time in those terms, no.”
Sharp: “From this letter it would appear that you felt exposed at that point?”
Herft: “I felt exposed.”
Sharp has just put to Herft that he met Elliott’s questions with “a fair degree of hostility”.
Herft: “Yes, I agree with that.”
Herft: “I was irritated, I think, by the fact that he hadn’t contacted me to tell me that this matter was on the agenda and this was the way he was going to send the letter, and so there was a degree of irritability when I responded.”
The royal commission has just been reminded that Graeme Lawrence was chaplain to the Newcastle Grammar School.
McClellan has just put to Herft that the reasoning behind his letter was he wanted to persuade Elliott he never knew of any allegation against Graeme Lawrence.
Herft said he didn’t read it that way.
McClellan: “You go on to say, after having no recollection, that you and Lawrence had a professional relationship and you would have been extremely cautious.”
Herft: “Yes, that is true.”
In Herft’s letter to Elliott he says “I have, to the best of my recollection, no knowledge of such matters being referred to the police or any other authority. It is inconceivable that no action would result given that The Reverend Graeme Lawrence was chaplain to Newcastle Grammar School.”
“I would have had a personal interest in bringing such matters before the relevant authority given that our children attended Newcastle Grammar School in that period and would have been at risk even if there was a slightest tinge of evidence linking the Rev Graeme Lawrence to the abuse of minors.”
Herft has just accepted that he received three separate serious complaints about Lawrence in 1995, 1997 and 1999, and accepted the “say-so” from Lawrence that they didn’t happen, but of course he also has no recollection of receiving the complaints or speaking with Lawrence.
Sharp: “It could be said that by 1999 the allegations were no longer a whisper and were now a roar?”
Herft: “That is not the way I understood it.”
Herft said he had to have a “level of trust” in Lawrence because he stood in his place when Herft was away.
McClellan: “The fact that he had such a senior position and would act in your stead meant that you had a greater responsibility, did you not, to ensure that he was an appropriate person to fill that role?”
McClellan: “The allegations of this type brought to you on multiple occasions, do they not suggest maybe he was the wrong person?”
Herft: “There were no formal complaints being made to me regarding an extremely high profile individual and I had no reason to doubt the fact that what he said to me was true.”
The archbishop is now being questioned about his knowledge of child sex allegations about another senior priest, Peter Rushton.
The royal commission has just been told that during the break between the first half of the public hearing and now, Herft has been supplied with a copy of the yellow envelope about Rushton, and copies of documents about allegations made against him, including that furniture removalists found pornography, including child pornography, when they moved material from Rushton’s house in 1998.
One of the documents shows that Herft wanted Bishop Robert Beal to look at the material and report back to him.
Beal reported back that Rushton was not going to let Beal look at the videos.
Asked whether that made him suspicious, Herft said it made him concerned. He conceded he was aware that possession of child pornography was a criminal offence.
A lawyer named Greg Hansen acted on Rushton’s behalf.
Herft has agreed that he was “very concerned” about the nature of the material and whether it contained child sex material.
Herft has agreed the “vast quantity” of the material caused him concern.
McClellan has just taken Herft back to Reverend Colvin Ford’s letter warning of the abuse material found by the removalists.
Herft said there was “no doubt” in his mind that if there was child pornography it was a matter for police, and a matter of scandal. Herft said scandal was not the consideration.
Herft said he was “deeply concerned that a priest in the diocese, a senior priest in the diocese, would have pornography of any form”.
Herft said he agreed to Greg Hansen reviewing the material.
McClellan: “You knew of the relationship between Mr Hansen and Peter Rushton?”
Herft said “not necessarily”.
McClellan asked if it was appropriate for Hansen to review the material.
Herft: “I trusted Greg Hansen to do the right thing, that if there was any suggestion of child pornography that he would not countenance it and he’d bring it to my attention.”
Hansen wrote to Herft that there was nothing in the video pile that “contravened any legislation”.
Registrar Peter Mitchell also reviewed the material.
Sharp has asked Herft how it was that Mitchell came to review the material. Readers are reminded that Mitchell has already given evidence to the royal commission, and was jailed in 2002 for defrauding the diocese of nearly $200,000.
Herft gave another long-winded response.
Sparke Helmore acted for the removalists. They wrote to the bishop that statements of the removalists were held by the legal firm.
Sparke Helmore wrote that it would provide the statements on condition, that included consent to indemnity for the removalists.
Sharp: “It was a good idea to get a copy of the statements of the people who actually saw the material, wasn’t it?”
Herft: “Yes, it was.”
Sharp: “That didn’t happen though, did it?”
Herft agreed that it didn’t happen.
Sharp has now put to Herft that he relied on Hansen and Mitchell.
Sharp: “Did it occur to you that Peter Rushton may not have provided all the material to Mitchll or Hansen.`?”
Herft: “In hindsight that is a logical conclusion.”
Herft has just said that “the matter of a criminal charge was something that I was looking at all the way through”.
Herft said it didn’t cross his mind that Rushton withheld material of a criminal nature.
Sharp: “Your view at all relevant times was that Peter Rushton had a serious addiction to had committed a pornography?”
Herft: “He did, yes.”
Sharp: “Didn’t that already call into account his integrity, in your view?”
Herft: “It did.”
Sharp: “Why were you prepared to rely on him to disclose you material that showed he committed a criminal offence?”
Herft has just given a long response indicating he relied on what other people told him, and did.
Monday, August 29
9.50AM: Good morning. It’s Joanne McCarthy back for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing, which resumes in Newcastle today after two weeks of hearings earlier this month.
For full coverage of the hearings so far, scroll down and read the Newcastle Herald’s blogs or watch Ian Kirkwood and I recap the last day of the previous sitting below.
You can join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #shinethelight.
Wrap up of day nine:
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day one
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day two
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day three
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day four
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day five
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day six
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day seven
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day eight
- AS IT HAPPENED: Royal Commission day nine