Case Study 13: TJHC hearing room updates (Marist Schools)

The Royal Commission held a public hearing in Canberra from Tuesday 10 June 2014. The hearing  examined the response of the Marist Brothers to allegations of child sexual abuse in schools in the ACT, NSW and Queensland. 

Update 50
Thursday 7 August 2014 – Day 11

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse reconvened in Sydney today to finalise the hearing into the Marist Brothers’ response to child sexual abuse perpetrated by two teaching brothers from the early 1960s through to the late 1980s.

The hearing was adjourned on 1 July 2014 to enable the Royal Commission to make further inquiries.

Former principal, Brother Alexis Turton and former brother and perpetrator, Gregory Sutton had not been excused from the hearing, but Counsel Assisting said today that neither was required to give further evidence to the Royal Commission. Both witnesses were excused today.

A number of documents were tendered as evidence, which then concluded the public hearing into the Marist Brothers.

In a public statement released following the hearing, Provincial, Brother Jeffrey Crowe, apologised for the inaction and poor processes of the Marist Brothers that had made the situation even worse for survivors.

“This process has enabled us to honestly confront the crimes that have been committed, and our own failures as an institution in the past.

“We know we have made mistakes, and we are trying to learn from them. We are confident that our current approaches, though not perfect, are much more appropriate, transparent and fair,” Brother Crowe said.

 

 

Update 49
Tuesday 1 July 2014 Day 10    

Day ten of the Royal Commission hearing into the Marist Brothers’ response to child sexual abuse perpetrated by two teaching brothers from the early 1960s through to the late 1980s continued in Sydney today.

The hearing commenced with evidence from former Marist Brother Gregory Sutton, who was convicted in the late 1990s of 67 counts of child sexual abuse committed in the 1970s and 80s.

Sutton served 12 years imprisonment for the crimes and was released in April 2008.

Sutton gave evidence that in August 1989 he was told by Br Turton that there was a police investigation into Sutton’s activities at St Thomas More Primary School in Campbelltown, and that he was sent to Canada for psychological treatment shortly afterwards.

Sutton also said that he had been advised by Br Turton in 1992, after he had left the Marist Brothers, that warrants had been issued by NSW Police for his arrest.  Sutton said that when he asked what he should do about the warrants, he was told to stay in the USA and ‘live his life’.

The Truth Justice and Healing Council and the Marist Brothers have reserved their position in relation to further questioning of Sutton when the hearing resumes.

Br Jeffrey Crowe then continued giving evidence.

Br Crowe was asked about the Marist Brothers’ handling of the claims made in relation to abuse perpetrated by Kostka Chute at Marist College Canberra.  Br Crowe told the Commission 48 complainants had made claims against Chute, and that more than $6.8 million in compensation had been paid.

Br Crowe was asked for his opinion about the reasons that Chute was able to offend over such a long period of time.  His thoughts were that trust had been placed in Chute by the Marist Brothers because he was a brother, and it was unusual for one brother to have suspicions of another brother.  He went on to say that Kostka Chute was a master of secrecy, who failed to acknowledge the sexual assaults he had committed.   Br Crowe also gave evidence that in his view there was a degree of ignorance during earlier decades and apparent systemic failures in respect of child protection measures in those periods.

Br Crowe acknowledged there had also been poor handling of some complaints received in respect of Chute from parents in the 1950s and 1960s.  He said this was ‘disastrous, they weren't very effectively dealt with at all’.

Br Crowe said the Marist Brothers’ advisory group is currently ‘looking at and learning’ from the experience of victims who had been through civil processes and Towards Healing and what changes in approach the Marist Brothers could take.

Br Crowe also said the Marist Professional Standards Office is developing a process for people to revisit past settlements. He said that ‘We are always open… to people coming back to us who are dissatisfied, and certainly if they believe that… either in the Towards Healing process or in the civil litigation process, if they feel that the amount was inadequate, unfair or that the proceedings were at fault.’

The hearing has been adjourned to enable the Royal Commission to make some further inquiries.  A date will be set for the hearing to resume once those inquiries are complete.

 

Update 48
Monday 30 June 2014 – Day 9

Day nine of the Royal Commission hearing into the way in which the Marist Brothers responded to child sexual abuse perpetrated by two teaching brothers from the early 1960s through to the late 1980s continued in Sydney today after being adjourned for two weeks.

Today’s hearing commenced with retired provincial of the Marist Brothers, Br Alexis Turton continuing to give evidence about his response to a complaint made by Damian De Marco of abuse by Kostka Chute at Marist College Canberra.

Br Alexis was vice-provincial of the Marist Brothers from 1983 to June 1989 and provincial from June 1989 to June 1995.

Under cross examination from Mr O’Brien representing Mr DeMarco, Br Alexis gave evidence as to the details about his meeting with Mr DeMarco at Canberra Airport, the subsequent meeting with Fr Brian Lucas and steps he took to enquire into Chute’s conduct.

Br Alexis also gave evidence today about communications with the Church insurer, CCI, about indemnity for the Marists Brothers in cases of alleged child sexual abuse. Br Alexis gave evidence in relation to decisions by CCI to cover claims stemming from Chute’s criminal behaviour.

Br Alexis was asked about steps he took following disclosures by Chute of inappropriate behaviour against two boys during the meeting he had with Fr Brian Lucas in 1993.  He gave evidence as to the inquiries undertaken as to the well-being of the men, and said that he had followed advice as to the approach to take to such inquiries in those circumstances.

Late in the afternoon the current Provincial, Br Jeff Crowe, began giving evidence.  He was asked about the Marist Brothers’ schools in Australia, and questioned about the history of policy development.

Br Crowe recounted the emerging awareness in the Church of the issue of child sexual abuse by priests and religious, saying the Marist Brothers had initially learned of the issue through publicity from the USA and later locally in Australia. 

He said this had generated discussion about the development of a child protection policy, but the Marist Brothers had not initiated inquiries to discover the extent of any issue within their ranks.

He said the Marist Brothers had instead responded to complainants as they came forward.

The hearing will continue in Sydney tomorrow.

 

Update 43
Thursday 19 June 2014 – Day 8

Br Alexis Turton

Day eight of the Marist Royal Commission hearing in Canberra started on Thursday with former provincial of the Marist Brothers, Alexis Turton,continuing to give evidence about his response to a complaint made by Damian De Marco in 1993 of abuse by Kostka Chute at Marist College Canberra some years earlier.

Br Turton was vice-provincial of the Marist from 1983 to June 1989 and provincial from June 1989 to June 1995.

Br Turton was asked about the Marist Brothers ‘Common Rules’ which applied until 1968 and set down rules about the interactions between brothers and children.

Br Alexis was also asked about disciplinary processes within the Marist Brothers over the period from when Chute commenced as a brother,particularly the reference to a ‘canonical warning’ given to Chute in 1969.

Counsel Assisting, drawing on an interview with Chute, said that past complaints had been made known to then provincials Brother Duffy in 1962, Brother Weldon in 1967 and Brother Howard in 1972.

Br Turton was also asked about similar disciplinary action taken against Sutton. “I wasn't aware of anything formally laid down at that time,” Br Turton said.

When asked about Sutton leaving the Marist Brothers while in Chicago in 1991 and whether Br Turton would have allowed Sutton’s release from vows and departure so as to avoid ‘scandal’, Br Turton responded that this wasn’t part of his thinking “whether a person was a brother or known to be a brother, I would imagine that the negative impact would still be very strong,” he said.

Br Turton was asked about Kostka Chute’s time at the Marist facilities in Mittagong and steps taken there to ensure he avoided children. Br Turton said it was his understanding that in his various roles at the Mittagong centre he wasn’t in contact with children. “My understanding was that the community leader was aware of his situation - of not working with children.”

Chute pled guilty in February 2008 to sexual offences against children and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.

Br Turton was asked about his escorting Chute to Court, and his understanding of whether Chute’s victims might see that as supporting Chute. Br Turton responded that, in his role of director of rofessional standards, he was expected by the Marist Brothers “to take the responsibility, to see that he kept all of his legal appointments, and it was in that spirit that I was doing it”.

After lunch Br Turton was asked by Mr O’Brien, representing Mr Damian De Marco, about the relationship between the Marists and Catholic Church Insurances (CCI), in the context of the 2008 civil litigation against the Marist Brothers in relation to Chute’s abuse at Marist College Canberra.

Mr O’Brien asked Br Turton a series of questions regarding the legal strategy adopted to defend the case, and suggested the Marists had acted so as to maintain CCI insurance cover for any legal costs and possible damages to Mr De Marco.

Mr O’Brien put to Br Turton that he had put pressure on people involved in the CCI investigation of the claim to give accounts or evidence consistent with the legal strategy of the Marist lawyers.

Br Turton denied the suggestion and responded that he was unaware of giving anyone any directions.

Mr O’Brien asked Br Turton about the Canberra airport meeting in 1993 where Mr De Marco told him about being abused by Chute and concerns Chute might be abusing other younger boys.

Br Turton reiterated his evidence from earlier in the hearing about his interpretation of Mr De Marco’s complaint.

Br Alexis will continue his evidence when the hearing resumes on 30 June in Sydney.

 

Update 42
Wednesday 18 June 2014 – Day 7

Br Alexis Turton

Day seven of the Marist Royal Commission hearing in Canberra commenced on Wednesday with retired provincial of the Marist Brothers, Alexis Turton giving evidence about his involvement with Br Greg Sutton.

Br Alexis was vice-provincial of the Marists from 1983 to June 1989 and provincial from June 1989 to June 1995.

Br Alexis said he was unaware of any issues with Sutton or any other brothers when he took over as vice provincial in 1983.

When asked about his visit to Lismore in 1985 to meet with Sr Julia following her previous discussions with him about Sutton’s behaviour Br Alexis said:

“I didn't see it as my role to read the personal records of each brother before I went to interview them in the school.  My main role was to listen to people on the site, particularly those responsible for them.”

He said he had no knowledge of Sutton’s abuse of four children in North Queensland in 1974 and 75 when he travelled to Lismore in 1985.

Counsel Assisting asked Br Turton of his awareness of Sutton’s history of abuse, including a further approximately 20 victims at schools he taught at before he was appointed to St Carthage's.

Br Turton again travelled to Lismore in March 1986 to meet with Sr Julia and to discuss her concerns about Sutton’s behaviour. Sutton then signed a warning letter which the school had prepared.

Br Turton said he reported the matter and the concerns of Sr Julia to the then provincial and said “I read that letter as the undertaking of Sister Julia and her staff to do that monitoring (of Sutton) as the people who were on the spot.”

Br Turton saw the letter ‘as a final warning’ and was told that should he breach that, he would be withdrawn.

Counsel Assisting put to Br Turton that despite knowing in 1986 that Sutton had breached a number of directions, and that he had been found on a number of occasions in physical contact with girls alone in classrooms he was ‘happy’ to have him remain in the school.

Br Turton responded: “I wouldn't use the word "happy".  I would say I was concerned because I could see that Sister Julia was concerned.  I was happy that this final set of conditions had been laid down to clarify the matter…”

Br Turton said he was unaware of why Sutton was ultimately removed by Provincial Dwyer from St Carthage’s in mid-1987.

In 1989, two years later, Br Turton was asked about the suicide of a young man from a North Queensland school where Sutton had taught, and the subsequent meeting with Sutton and the boy’s father in which Sutton admitted sexually abusing the boy.

Br Turton said he did not report this to the police because it was his understanding that as a result of the meeting, the family had achieved their objective, which was to get some closure on this tragedy.  Br Turton said “They wanted to move on and they did not want to take the matter to the police. That was quite a strong request from them”.

Br Turton was asked about a police investigation into the activities of Sutton at a Sydney primary school in the 1980s. Br Turton said he had no recollection of being aware of the investigation. He denied that when Sutton left Australia for therapy at a centre in Canada that he had left so that he would not be interviewed by the police.

Counsel Assisting put to Br Turton that Sutton had been sent to the therapy centre, Southdown in Canada, three days after he became aware of the police investigation.

Br Turton said Sutton had been sent to Toronto because of the known abuse, to try and get him to appropriate therapy, and that he needed the best treatmentavailable, which was at Washington or at Southdown.

When Br Turton was asked about the police investigation into Sutton he responded that he had provided the police with Sutton's family’s contact information, and that he stood ready to assist the police in any way.

After lunch Br Turton was asked about the activities of Br Kostka Chute at Marist College in Canberra. He said that in terms of today’s knowledge appointing Kostka to Marist College would be totally unacceptable.

Asked about the abuse of Mr Damian DeMarco by Chute, Br Turton rejected the suggestion that his note following a meeting with Mr DeMarco was an attempt tominimise the nature of the allegation against Chute.

Br Turton will continue giving evidence tomorrow.

Update 41
Tuesday 17 June 2014 – Day 6

Day six of the Marist Royal Commission hearing in Canberra commenced on Tuesday with retired Br Anthony Hunt giving evidence about his time as the superior of the Marist community in Lismore from 1984 till 1988, the period in which Greg Sutton was teaching at St Carthage’s in Lismore.

Br Hunt said he had concerns about Sutton’s level of maturity not long after Sutton arrived in Lismore in 1985 including ‘his general style of interacting with adult people, his seeming preference to enjoy the company of children over that of adults”.

He was asked about Br Turton visiting Lismore in 1985 and also about a letter written to Sutton by Sr Julia about Sutton’s behaviour with students. Br Hunt said he had limited understanding of the purpose of Br Turton’s visit and had not seen the Sr Julia letter at the time.

Brother Hunt said he began to become concerned with Sutton’s behaviour in 1986 and attended a meeting with the school’s leadership about Sutton’s relationships with the staff and his interactions with the pupils in the school.

Br Hunt agreed he had not raised his concerns with the provincial at the time.

The Commission has asked several witnesses about their views and understanding of abuse in the late 1980s. When asked by the Presiding Member, Justice Jennifer Coate, if in 1988, he understood that child sexual abuse a crime Br Hunt said: “At that time, I did not associate it with the word "crime".

Br Hunt concluded his evidence by saying if he had been aware of Sutton’s behaviour as outlined in Sr Julia’s letter of 1986 he would have been much more proactive including taking his own steps to have Sutton removed from the school.

He said his inaction was now a matter of great regret and sorrow for the great harm that was done to children by Sutton.

Father Brian Lucas

Farther Brian Lucas, General Secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference, gave evidence to the Commission about the history and development of protocols within the Church to deal with sexual assault.

His evidence also covered the requirement in some states and territories to report to statutory authorities, and his views about respecting the wishes of victims if they were adults and did not want to report to police.

Fr Lucas said one of the weaknesses of the 1992 church protocol was a lack of clarity about the procedural steps it envisaged, in that the protocol suggests quite distinct steps, when in practice, the approach did not always precisely follow those steps.

Fr Lucas was asked about a meeting between himself, the provincial of the Marists, Br Alexis Turton, and Kostka Chute, in 1994, about allegations made by Mr Damian De Marco.

Fr Lucas says he could not recall the meeting but had no reason to believe the meeting didn’t take place.

He gave evidence that if there was a perceived risk to a child following an allegation of abuse then the accused should be removed from teaching.

He said while it was his practise at the time to not take notes at meetings with someone accused of abuse, that practice was not intended to frustrate further possible police investigations.

“The practicality of facing a person in this situation and taking a note would mean he would not say anything, and there would be nothing to write down and nothing to report and nothing that would later be useful in a prosecution,” Fr Lucas said.

“Well, the purpose of the methodology, if I can explain, was to break the impasse between an allegation and a denial and to see whether, in the context of a confidential conversation with this man, we could move him to a position of some acknowledgment of a problem and the consequences of that, which would move him to remove himself from a position of risk, would move him into a therapeutic regime and as happened in many, many cases, then, to move him to his plea of guilty.”

When it was suggested to Fr Lucas by Mr O’Brien representing Mr De Marco that the process was about covering up the activities of accused clergy Fr Lucas responded:

“The word ‘cover-up’ is used extensively without much realisation of the dilemma that we were faced with.  We had a situation of an allegation by an adult victim who doesn't want to go to the police, for whatever reason, good or not so good.  You can't do nothing.  But to suggest that respecting that right of a victim not to go to the police amounts to a cover-up is something I completely reject.”

 

Update 40
Monday 16 June 2014 – Day 5

Day five of the Marist Royal Commission hearing in Canberra commenced on Monday with Mr Denis Doherty continuing his evidence to the Commission.

He described his interactions with Br Sutton in a north Queensland primary school between 1973 and 1975. 

He said Br Sutton would get up early and get to his classroom early and allowed children to come into the classroom with him at that time.  Br Sutton would also drive children around in the Brothers’ car and the school’s tractor. He was very familiar with the children, and had "pets" or favourites in his class.

Mr Doherty explained there had been a lot of interpersonal difficulties and resentment between himself and Br Sutton.

Mr Doherty spoke about his meeting with then provincial of the Marist Brothers, Br Charles Howard in 1975 when he expressed his concerns about Sutton's behaviour. 

He told the Commission he had not specifically mentioned any instances of suspected child sexual abuse to Br Charles at this time, but rather had complained about Sutton's behaviour and his interactions with students. He said that  Br Charles responded by telling Mr Doherty that "It sounds serious, we will move him to Sydney for counselling".  Br Sutton was subsequently moved away from the school, but Mr Doherty was not told the reason for the move.

Br Charles is now deceased.  The Commission was taken to a statement from Br Charles in the 1990s about Sutton, where Br Charles did not say he had transferred Sutton out of the schoolbecause of concerns about children.

Mr Doherty said with hindsight he regretted not having said more to Br Charles about his specific concerns at the time.  He denied however that his report to Br Charles had been limited to reporting Sutton's antisocial and inappropriate behaviour rather than his concerns regarding possible misconduct with students.

Mr John Holdsworth, a former Marist Brother, gave evidence about his involvement with Br Sutton at a school in north Queensland between 1973 and 1975.

He was principal of the combined primary and secondary school. He left the Marists in 1999.

Mr Holdsworth said if he had become aware of any issues in relation to particular brothers at the school, including in relation to any allegations of child sexual abuse, he would inform the provincial.

Mr Holdsworth said he did not have any memory of Mr Doherty raising concerns in relation to Sutton's behaviour with him in 1974 and 1975. 

Mr Holdsworth gave evidence about being approached by the father of a former student of the school, who had suicided in 1989.  After this death, the parents became aware that their son may have been abused by Sutton in north Queensland. 

The father asked Mr Holdsworth to organise a meeting between himself and Sutton.  He said that although not in the meeting, it was his understanding that at this meeting Sutton had admitted to abusing the student. He also said that following the meeting the father did not want to take further action..

He said that following the meeting the father had identified another boy who he suspected may have been abused at around the same time.  Mr Holdworth said he and the father had followed up the second boy’s father to ascertain whether there had been possible abuse of his son by Sutton. No information corroborated this suspicion.

He said he could not say if he was aware of the occurrence of child sexual abuse in 1989, or if he knew it was a crime.

Mr John Kelly, former director of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Lismore from 1981 until 1997, gave evidence about the role of the Catholic Education Office at St Carthage’s in Lismore.

Mr Kelly said the CEO would only provide advice on the appointment of staff to the school if the Marists were unable to fill all teaching positions.

He said he first became aware of Greg Sutton at the school in either 1985 or 86 when the then principal Sr Julia came to him about concerns regarding his professional performance as a teacher,not abuse issues.

He said if he had been aware of the full extent of Sr Julia’s concerns with Sutton about his involvement with children he would have recommended Sutton be removed from the school at an earlier time.

Mr Kelly said he first learnt of concerns about Sutton when the assistant principal in 1985, Jan O’Grady, came to him with her notes about Sutton’s inappropriate behaviour with students.  He immediately contacted the provincial of the Marist Brothers, Br Alman. Br Alman met with Mr Kelly within a few days. Following that meeting, which took place in the Easter break, Br Sutton did not return to the school.

The hearing continues.

Update 39
Friday 13 June 2014 - Day 4

Day four of the Marist Brothers Canberra hearing commenced with the former Principal of Marist College Canberra, Brother Terence Heinrich, being cross examined.

He was asked about his interaction with the then Provincial when he reported the complaint to him, and about his recollection of conversation in the mid-1980s with former house master, John Doyle. The questions covered his discussion with Kostka following the complaint, and the steps he took following his meeting with the complainant’s parents.

Br Heinrich said that as time went on, Br Kostka had less authority in the school. “I'm not sure he was happy about that.  I think he perhaps resented being overshadowed by other people, lay people particularly.

“He was not given too much accountability, so we had some difficulties knowing what was happening, with money particularly.  They were some of the issues that bothered us. He could be difficult to deal with,” Br Heinrich said.

Br Heinrich reiterated to the Commission that apart from the one allegation against Kostka he had never received any other complaint from a teacher, member of staff or student about Kostka’s behaviour.

Br Heinrich concluded his evidence by saying that the failure in dealing with the 1986 abuse allegation against Kostka began with him. He also said he now views the failure of his superiors at the time with “disappointment, some anger, some sadness”. 

Br Chris Wade then gave evidence. He was the headmaster at Marist College Canberra in 1993, the last year that Br Kostka was at the school.

Br Wade told the Commission he was not given any information about Br Kostka when he took over the role of headmaster in Canberra.

He said if he had been aware of Kostka’s history he would have been extremely cautious about having him in any position of trust with students.

Br Wade said he had no recollection of meeting Damian De Marco in 1993 when he came back to the school to make a complaint about Br Kostka, but accepted that such a meeting had taken place. 

He could not recall Mr De Marco’s approach with allegations about what Br Kostka had done while he had been at the school.

Br Wade was asked if he had heard anything earlier about Br Kostka, and said that he had heard some vague talk among the Brothers in the early 1960s.

Br Wade also said he was not aware of why Kostka was removed from the school at the end of 1993.

Mr Denis Doherty, an ex-Marist brother and former teacher in a Marist Brothers primary school in North Queensland, started giving evidence late on Friday about former Brother Greg Sutton. The school can’t be named for legal reasons.

Mr Doherty will continue giving evidence on Monday.

Update 38
Thursday 12 June 2014 – Day 3

Update 37

Wednesday 11 June 2014 - Day 2 

Update 36
Tuesday 10 June 2014 – Day 1

 

 

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