Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle Anglican diocese day 11 | live blog

6.30pm: Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy wraps up day 11 of the Newcastle child sexual abuse royal commission.

3.49pm Justice Peter McClellan has just told the royal commission that a group of Newcastle Anglican parishioners, including Caddies, wrote to the Royal Commission on April 13, 2016, complaining about Newcastle Bishop Greg Thompson giving evidence at the royal commission.

The letter includes: “Our concern relates to the behaviour of, and statements made by, the current bishop...”

Naomi Sharp: “Firstly, you say that you are gravely concerned that Bishop Thompson apparently took no action in relation to his own abuse?”

Caddies: “Yes.”

Sharp: “Do you see that you express concern about Bishop Thompson having made an ‘unsubstantiated’ claim about another priest?”

Caddies: “Yes.”

Sharp: “You question what was Bishop Thompson’s knowledge of past matters of abuse?”

Sharp: “There is a little bloc in the cathedral that seeks to undermine Bishop Thompson at the moment, isn’t there?”

Caddies: “I wouldn’t call it a bloc, but they are people, they’re diverse people from all walks of life and from various places in Newcastle in that list. I wouldn’t call them a bloc.”

Sharp: “I think you described them as ‘quite senior professionals’ but they are a group of people who are seeking to undermine Bishop Thompson at the moment.”

Caddies: “No, I don’t think it is quite the position. We have concerns about him and in relation to management of the diocese. We are very comfortable about his work in relation to the royal commission and the leadership he has provided in that area.”

McClellan: “What were you trying to say to the royal commission in relation to Bishop Thompson by writing this letter? What was your purpose in writing this letter?”

Caddies: “Well, many people, your Honour, have been, have expressed views, not merely the people here, as to the duration of the – we’re talking about 1974, I believe, and as to the first point, and as to the second point, there’s been a great deal of speculation about the identity of this other unnamed priest and there’s been at least four other people that have been speculated upon as to whether they were that – whether each of those persons were that person.

McClellan: “So you are doubting the credibility of the bishop’s statement. Is that what you’re saying?”

Caddies: “No, it’s not doubting the credibility, it’s doubting – it’s saying is it this person or that person or it is very unfair to not have identified who that person is.”

McClellan: “No, in relation to the first matter that you raised, the length of time, you were seeking to say the bishop’s not credible, is that what you’re saying?”

Caddies: “No, I don’t believe so.”

McClellan: “What was the point of being concerned about the period of time?”

Caddies: “Well, insofar as he was a man of considerable experience as he has progressed, that has continued to be something I assume he has been aware of and perhaps aware of in relation to the second person concerned, who I think lived on for another, at least another 15 or 16 years.”

McClellan: “I’m not quite understanding. Were you seeking to say to the royal commission because it’s taken so long, the bishop’s credibility should be looked at?”

Caddies: "No, not at all.”

McClellan: “Not at all?”

Caddies: “I don’t believe so.”

McClellan questioned Caddies about a section of his first statement.

McClellan: “You say there in the first question: ‘I question if Bishop Thompson was in fact abused, why didn’t he report it earlier?’ That’s a challenge to his credibility?”

Caddies: “I suppose it is your Honour, yes.”

McClellan: “Did you tell me the truth when you said you weren’t seeking to challenge his credibility?”

Caddies: “I was certainly endeavouring to speak the truth, your Honour..”

McClellan: “No, please, were you telling me the truth when you said you weren’t challenging his credibility?”

Caddies: “I was endeavouring to raise the proposition that it needs to be questioned and that was what I was trying to do initially with the royal commission.”

The royal commission hearing into Newcastle Anglican diocese will resume in Sydney on November 16. 

Solicitor Robert Caddies.

Solicitor Robert Caddies.

3.33pm Former Newcastle Anglican Diocese lawyer Robert Caddies is giving evidence.

Mr Caddies is being questioned about his history with the diocese. He stopped giving legal advice to the diocese in 2005. He agreed he and Graeme Lawrence were friends and first met in the early 1980s. Lawrence married Caddies and his second wife.

Sharp: “Is it right that during the professional standards process involving Graeme Lawrence you donated money to a fighting fund for him?”

Caddies: “That’s true.”

Caddies and his legal firm provided legal advice to the diocese for nine years.

In his statement to the royal commission, Caddies said he was “unaware” of Lawrence’s “influence on decision-making in the diocese”.

Sharp: “It’s right that there is a significant power bloc aligned with Graeme Lawrence in the diocese?”

Caddies: “I wouldn’t call it simply a power bloc in favour of Graeme Lawrence. I think people have wanted to see him given a fair hearing and due process be observed.”

Sharp: “To your knowledge and understanding, he has been a very powerful figure in the politics of the diocese?”

Caddies: “I wouldn’t have seen it as powerful but he certainly exercised influence because he was well regarded.”

Caddies said he did not agree with Sharp’s assessment that his statement saying he was “unaware” of Lawrence’s influence on the diocese was “not a particularly candid statement”.

3.30pm Naomi Sharp has resumed questioning Mr Rosser.

Sharp: “Mr Rosser you indicated that you took some time off from employment (with the Aboriginal Legal Service) in order to act in the CKC matter?”

Rosser: “Yes.”

Sharp: “Why did you accept instructions from CKC?”

Rosser: “I don’t know. Mr Allen asked me to and I probably felt I should.”

Paul Rosser, QC has completed his evidence.

2.38pm Paul Rosser is being cross examined by solicitor Mr O’Connell for victim CKA. 

O’Connell has just put to Rosser that he and Dean Graeme Lawrence, after a meeting on January 21, 1999, “started taking action towards developing a strategy of defence for (priest) CKC should he be charged by police?”

Rosser: “I reject that suggestion completely.”

O’Connell is now questioning Rosser about events during the trial of CKC in 2001.

He is being questioned about a subpoena, issued when the indictment stated the alleged offences took place in 1974.

O’Connell: “And the purpose of the subpoena was to find anything in and around 1974 that might assist your case?”

Rosser: “No, I don’t believe that’s so.”

O’Connell: “Would you agree that it makes absolutely no sense for the subpoena to request anything from 1978 to 1984?”

Rosser: “I don’t understand that. That makes me feel very confident that I didn’t settle the subpoena.”

O’Connell is now questioning Rosser about the parish register that the royal commission has earlier had described as providing some sort of alibi for CKC.

O’Connell: “The register that was produced at court did not itself provide an alibi, did it?”

Rosser: “No, it wasn’t an alibi.”

O’Connell: “What it did was it contradicted some evidence of what CKA said happened the morning after the alleged abuse?”

Rosser: “What CKA and his brother said happened the morning after, yes.”

O’Connell: “When did you first find out about this contradiction?”

Rosser: “I think it was after Mr Allen looked at the register itself on what I understand was 14 August 2001.”

O’Connell has just put to Rosser that the evidence as to what CKA and his brother did the day after the alleged abuse was in their respective statements.

O’Connell: “Given that you had that evidence in statement form, you had the register that contradicted it, did you turn your mind to make representations to the Crown?”

Rosser: “No, and I wouldn’t have done that.”

Rosser has told the royal commission he wanted to “lock the story in in front of the jury before I produced the register”.

O’Connell: “You see, I suggest to you that you could have and it would have been proper to have written representations to the Crown?”

Rosser: “It might have been proper. I think it would have been unwise.”

O’Connell: “I suggest to you that you could have made representations to the Crown and avoided putting CKA and his brother through the ordeal of your cross examination?”

Rosser: “If the Crown had acceded to such representations, I don’t believe such representations stood the slightest chance of success.”

O’Connell has just asked Rosser if he was notified before the trial that the judge in the case, Judge Coolahan, had previously represented the diocese. He said he had been.

O’Connell: “Did you make any application in relation to the judge based on that knowledge?”

Rosser: “No.”

Rosser said he was not aware that Graeme Lawrence was at the trial supporting CKC, or that Bishop Roger Herft was supporting CKC.

He has denied standing on the steps of Newcastle Courthouse and laughing at CKA who was standing with his father and brother outside the hotel across the road.

Rosser said he did not take any interest in a media release issued by the diocese after the trial, that incorrectly stated the priest had been acquitted.

O’Connell: “If you had been aware of it at the time, would you have taken steps to correct that?”

Rosser: “I don’t know. I didn’t take any interest in what was in the press.”

A solicitor for one of the victims of James Brown is questioning Rosser about his cross examination of the victim at a committal hearing in 1997.

Rosser did not agree with the proposition that it was an aggressive cross examination, but said it was “an appropriate cross examination”. The victim got up and walked out of the committal hearing.

Rosser: “he stood up and gave us to understand that he’d had enough and he walked out.”

Mr Fitzgerald, for the victim, asked Rosser if he thought the victim might have been traumatised.

Rosser: “I don’t know about traumatised. I think he was angered. I don’t pretend it was a gentle cross examination. It wasn’t intended to be.”

O’Connell: “It was an object of that cross examination to discredit him as a complainant?”

Rosser: “That’s one of them, yes.”

Justice McClellan has just got involved.

McClellan: “Mr Rosser, are you aware of the common concern of people who have been abused, that the criminal justice process is so harsh that they’re not prepared to become involved in it?”

Rosser: “I am aware of that perception. I’d have to say I’ve become more aware of it over the years.”

McClellan: “Do you agree that the process is harsh?”

Rosser: “I agree that… it’s no fun giving evidence and being cross examined, that’s for sure, and bearing in mind that the witnesses are going to be cross examined from the viewpoint that they are telling wicked lies. It is never going to be an easy cross examination.”

McClellan: “More than that. Do you think that it is appropriate that we have a process that is so harsh that it discourages a great many people from coming forward?”

Rosser: “Well, I mean, the other side of it, persons insist that they are innocent….

McClellan: “Perhaps it might be a solution to look at the role that the court has and the prosecuting and defence counsel have, do you think?”

Rosser: “That may be.”

McClellan: “I wonder if all the years you've been involved in these matters, whether the process really works to achieve an appropriate outcome?”

Rosser: “I think the process fails in a lot of respects. I have seen people convicted who I felt shouldn’t have been. I’ve seen people acquitted who I felt shouldn’t have been, and that’s from both sides of the record. I think, to be blunt about it, it can be a lottery.”

Mr Fitzgerald asked Rosser if he accepted that giving evidence can compound the trauma experienced by sexual abuse victims. He said he accepted that.

Fitzgerald: “And they can and do deter survivors of sexual abuse from taking their complaint to the appropriate authorities. Do you accept that?”

Rosser: “I accept that. I have family experience of that, yes.”

Fitzgerald: “This is one of those occasions within an adversarial system where your advocacy worked an unjust outcome, as it turned out?”

Rosser: “As it turned out.”

When the victim’s name appeared again on an indictment against James Brown in 2010, when Brown was charged with multiple child sex offences against multiple victims, and Rosser represented him, Rosser told the royal commission he did not “turn his mind” to whether Bishop Herft might have been “very keen to exercise pastoral concern towards” the victim.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chairman Justice Peter McClellan.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse chairman Justice Peter McClellan.

2.05pm The Royal Commission has resumed after the lunch break.

Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp is questioning former Newcastle Anglican Diocese deputy chancellor and barrister, Paul Rosser, QC.

Rosser is being questioned about his concerns about the professional standards ordinance enacted by the diocese that gave the professional standards director independence from the bishop to investigate sexual abuse allegations.

Rosser is being questioned about his “activisit” role as chancellor, and a draft email framed by Bishop Brian Farran on September 5, 2010 for Rosser, and also sent to business manager John Cleary.

The draft email said: “As my legal advisor, I think that you have a ‘reserved’ role in diocesan council and not an activist role, if I can put my thinking in such lay terminology. My understanding is that the chancellor is not an initiator but an advisor. I guess this differs from your very active legal practice as a defence lawyer. I write to underline my perception of the role of chancellor because I think that it needs to be seen and understood that you advise me as bishop, rather than initiate independently as a member of the diocesan council or the synod. I think that if you are seen as an activist operating in your own right, I will be seen to have nowhere to go for advice either in the diocesan council or the synod.”

Rosser told the royal commission he had no memory of receiving it, but did not dispute receiving it.

Rosser has just agreed that Bishop Brian Farran “pulled him up” in late 2010, after the diocese initiated professional standards proceedings against Graeme Lawrence and four others, and Rosser raised concerns about the handling of professional standards.

Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran outside Newcastle Courthouse.

Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Brian Farran outside Newcastle Courthouse.

The email was framed within that context.

Sharp: “Do you accept now that you did overstep the mark when you were the chancellor?”

Rosser: “Yes, except that I was also asked to wear the other hat as a member of the committee, the sub-committee, looking at professional standards, and it was undesirable that I be in both those positions. I accept that.”

Rosser is now being questioned about another email from Bishop Farran, dated October 19, 2010, to Rosser where he raised the issue of a perceived conflict of interest in the matter of James Brown, a former Anglican lay person charged with child sex offences.

Rosser has told the royal commission that Farran said concerns had been expressed to him.

Rosser: “I believe I said that I did not see that there was a conflict of interest and the matter was left there.”

Sharp: “In fact, by this time, considerable tension had emerged between you and Bishop Farran?”

Rosser: “I don’t know. I certainly don’t remember this conversation taking place in any atmosphere of tension.”

Rosser resigned as chancellor on November 26, 2010.

In his resignation letter to Farran, Rosser said he had maintained his “reticence” about giving reasons for the resignation until he was contacted by a Newcastle Herald journalist and asked to comment on the suggestion it might have partly related to a conflict of interest between his position of chancellor and working as a lawyer for church members.

1.03pm The Royal Commission has adjourned for the lunch break.

11.59am Paul Rosser being questioned about whether he appeared as a barrister in the matter of CKC.

Rosser has denied being robed while representing CKC in court in 2001, and earlier confirmed to the court that he was not a barrister at that time.

Rosser is being questioned about a parish register being brought to the trial, without a subpoena.

In his statement Rosser said “I advised Mr Allen to secure the presence at court of the diocesan registrar, Mr Mitchell, and the parish register.”

Rosser has told the court it was at the end of questioning CKA: “In the course of my cross examination of CKA, towards the end of it, I put to him a specific proposition about what might flow from what certain records appeared to show.”

Rosser has told the royal commission the register came to the court after the Crown prosecutor questioned him about whether he was relying on actual information to question CKA.

Sharp: “Mr Rosser, there has been a suggestion that the register of services may have been altered. Was that a matter ever made lknown to you during the course of this hearing?”

Rosser: “Not until I heard it. The suggestion made here. I don’t know how it could be altered. It’s a bound book with sequential entries. I don’t know how that could be altered. But, I had not heard a suggestion that it had been altered until these proceedings.”

Rosser said he believed Bishop Herft knew he represented CKC in the action on the basis of solicitor Keith Allen’s involvement with the diocese.

Rosser has told the royal commission he “never” spoke to Herft about the progress of the CKC matter while he was acting for CKC.

Sharp: “I take it he at no point raised a concern with you about the actuality of potential of any conflict or perception of...”

Rosser: “Never.”

Sharp is now questioning Rosser about his statement that he was consulted by Herft about another child sex offender priest, Allan Kitchingman.

Sharp is now questioning Rosser about the prosecution of trainee priest Ian Barrack.

Sharp: “There’s some evidence to suggest you turned up to court on some of the days that the Barrack matter was being heard, is that correct?”

Rosser: “One of the days that I can recall.”

Rosser said he did so at the request of a bishop, and he thought it was Brian Farran, and in the role of deputy chancellor, because the victim’s mother, who was also a trainee priest, had written to the bishop.

Rosser: “I attended for the purpose of finding out what was going on.”

Paul Rosser, QC.

Paul Rosser, QC.

Rosser is now being questioned about professional standards and church ordinances.

Sharp is questioning Rosser about a complaint made against Graeme Lawrence and others in 2009.

Rosser: “The bishop told me then that a complaint had been made against Graeme Lawrence.”

The complaint had to go through the new professional standards framework, which made the professional standards director Michael Elliott independent of the bishop.

Rosser said he had some concerns about the professional standards framework after the handling of complaints against two priests, both for matters involving adults.

Rosser said he was concerned about the possible theft of material against one of the priests.

Rosser wrote in an email to diocese business manager John Cleary: “There appears to me to have been no proper basis for the committee’s recommendation to the bishop for (the priest’s) suspension. I appreciate that minds may differ on matters of this nature. There is nothing in the material which suggests to me that his continuation in office was a public scandal or that his suspension was necessary to protect any person. It would be interesting to know what factors operated on the committee’s mind.” 

The email continues: “What I have seen today fortifies me in my view that the activities of the professional standards committee and director should be subject to some ongoing oversight and that the confidential nature of its work should no longer be accepted as standing in the way of proper enquiry into the appropriateness and propriety of its activities.” 

McClellan has asked Rosser what he thought an oversight committee would do, and questioned him about whether he was at the middle of divisions in the diocese over professional standards.

McClellan: “Am I right in thinking there was a groundswell of opposition to the professional standards process?”

Rosser: “Oh there was.”

McClellan: “And that groundswell of division is evident in the memorandum that you were writing, in ther sense that you were being asked to step into the middle of this problem? The division is, in simple terms, as we understand it, part of the diocese that says these priests have been badly treated in the process of professional standards?”

Rosser: “That‘s so.”

McClellan: “In terms of the animosities that were revealed in relation to these two priests, those animosities, I think it is right to understand, emerged really at the beginning of the diocese have to face up...”

Rosser: “I think that’s right.”

McClellan: “… to its crimes.”

Rosser: “I think that’s right. I think it’s important to emphasise that these were not child abuse cases. They did involved popular priests and there was a lot of dissatisfaction about how the things were handled.”

After more questions and answers, McClellan: “The impression we have is that starting back at this time, the animosities that you and i have just spoke about were very severe?”

Rosser: “I think the animosities had started the previous year and the feelings were very, very strong.”

Rosser is now being questioned about a notice of motion he put to the synod during this period, that would require the professional standards committee to provide information to the diocesan council.

Rosser has already said the bishop preferred that the professional standards process remain independent of the bishop.

There was a meeting of the diocesan council in May 2010 and Rosser withdrew his notice of motion. One of the main reasons was that Professor Patrick Parkinson was asked to review the professional standards process, and did so.

Rosser is now being questioned about events after the professional standards committee resumed handling of complaints against Graeme Lawrence and four others, including three Newcastle priests, relating to child sex abuse. The police did not pursue charges and referred the matter back to the diocese.

The committee voted to resume that process in August 2010. Naomi Sharp and Rosser are now having a question and answer session about when Rosser became aware of that.

Sharp put to Rosser that he would have known because of his friendship with Lawrence, his position as chancellor and his close interest in the professional standards framework.

Rosser has insisted he did not believe he was aware.

Rosser is now being questioned about an email sent by him to Bishop Brian Farran on August 21, 2010, shortly after the investigation of Lawrence and others was enlivened.

Rosser’s email: “I have expressed concerns as to the need for oversight of the operations of the director and the committee. As the ordinance stands, only you can exercise that oversight. I regret that it has been my clear perception that you have not regarded my concerns as serious and that the advice that I have offered as to effective oversight has been unwelcome. I fully understand your determination that the professional standards process be seen to be entirely independent of yourself. It has appeared to me that you have been prepared to accept uncritically what has been placed before you by the director and the committee and that, for practical purposes, the director has been allowed free rein.”

It continues: “One consequence of this has been the appalling waste of money on detailed investigations and reports that were not required… and the inordinate delay thereby occasioned. As you are aware, there is a startling disparity between what the director told the private meeting and what the diocesan council was told later that same day as to the director’s role in commissioning these investigations.”

McClellan: “Were you taking sides?”

Rosser: “I was very, there are a lot of aspects of what had happened (with the two priests) that disturbed me, so to that extent I suppose I was.”

McClellan: “Well, you were taking sides in the sense you didn’t think the process was fair?”

“And you were putting yourself up against the professional standards office?”

Rosser: “Yes, I suppose that’s so.”

McClellan has put to Rosser that his strong stand put himself “on the side of the significant number of poeple in the diocese who were opposed to the process that was unfolding”.

Rosser: “I don’t believe I was . There were people who were anti-professional standards because of (the priests). There were people who were anti-professional standards because of what was in the works. I don’t believe I was in that camp, as much as I had personal sympathy for Graeme Lawrence. I was really concerned about what I had seen and what I had heard in these matters. So, yes, I appreciate that I probably didn’t pour water on the flames.”

McClellan: “Do you think your personal sympathy for Graeme Lawrence may have affected your judgment about these matters?”

Rosser: “No, I don’t believe that anything I did or said about professional standards had anything to do with Graeme Lawrence.”

Rosser has denied “meddling” in the matter, given that he was not asked for advice by the bishop.

He is now being questioned about an email to the bishop in which he questioned the appropriateness of the appointment of Michael Elliott as professional standards director.

In another email to the bishop on August 31, 2010, he proposed amendments to the professional standards process, including “specific provision for complaints against the director and professional standards committee”.

He recommended that “only qualified persons” should represent parties before the professional standards board. The email ended “There is still, I believe, a body of opinion that the (professional standards) ordinance should be repealed in its entirety. My proposals do, I think, deal with those areas that appear to have caused the greatest concerns”.

Rosser said he did not agree with removal of the ordinance in its entirety.

Rosser denied that he had proposed a change to the ordinance allowing for complaints against the professional standards director or committee.


The royal commission has resumed after the morning tea break. Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp is questioning barrister and former chancellor Paul Rosser, QC.

Sharp is questioning Rosser about the conduct of action after child sex allegations against a priest known as CKC, who was charged in 2001.

Rosser has said that “to the best of my recollection” it was unusual for him to be involved in a child sexual abuse matter.

Rosser said when he was first involved with the case, he did not believe he knew the name of the priest.

Rosser is being asked about a letter sent to the victim CKA under the letterhead of Dean Graeme Lawrence.

Rosser said he didn’t write it, and can’t remember whether he saw it in draft or final form.

The third paragraph of the letter said the diocese “assured” CKA that the matter would not be swept under the carpet.

The letter advised CKA he could go to police, but it was suggested he get advice before doing so.

Rosser was retained by Keith Allen to represent CKC.

Rosser has conceded it must have appeared to CKA that the Anglican church was “ganging up on him”, by having Allen and Rosser representing the priest CKC in a trial with CKA as complainant.

Sharp: “You see, do you see the contradiction in this letter ‘We are prepared to offer as much help as the circumstances require’, that representation being one that you settled, being made to CKA, and then you turning up representing CKC. Can you see that contradiction?”

Rosser: “I can see. I can see the appearance of a contradiction, yes.”

Sharp: “The contradiction is manifest, is it not?”

Rosser: “I can see it.”

Sharp: “It is manifest, is it not?”

Rosser: “I don’t know if it is manifest. It is certainly able to be perceived to be a contradiction.”

McClellan: “I think that is manifest.”

Sharp has now questioned Rosser about representing CKC against CKA.

Sharp: “Now you see when you cross examined him at his committal and then at his crinminal trial, you weren’t offering assistance to him, were you?”

Rosser: “No, he had refused the offer of assistance.”

Sharp: “So because he had refused that assistance, you thought you could hop over to the other side, is that right?”

Rosser: “No, no, I was never on his side.” 

McClellan has just stepped in to the questioning, about how it appeared to CKA to have Rosser in court against him.

McClellan: “If I offer to help you and then I set out to cut you down, in the story you are telling. The two don’t sit together, do they?”

Rosser: “I suppose it was the fact that he had chosen not to avail himself of the church’s offer, he had gone to the police.”

After more to-ing and fro-ing, McClellan: You assert that there wasn’t a conflict in the legal sense?

Rosser: “In a legal, perhaps I’m being, I can see the basis for criticism.”


Royal commission adjourns for the morning tea break.

Paul Rosser, QC

Paul Rosser, QC


Barrister Paul Rosser, QC, is giving evidence to the royal commission.

Rosser admitted as a solicitor in 1975, admitted to the Bar in March 1979, appointed QC in 1989. Rosser became a parishioner in the parish of Gosford in 1991.

He first met Graeme Lawrence in 1993 when he moved to Newcastle and became a parishioner at Christ Church Cathedral.

He was appointed deputy chancellor of Newcastle diocese on February 22, 1996. He was a lay member of the diocese’s board of enquiry from 1997, and a substitute for an elected person at the national 1998 general synod.

Rosser was not admitted as a barrister between June 30, 2000 and July 1, 2009.

During that time he held a practising certificate as a solicitor.

Rosser was diocese chancellor between late 2009 and November 26, 2010. Rosser ceased all involvement with the Anglican Church in 2013.

Rosser has told the royal commission he has a “solid friendship” with Graeme Lawrence, but denied being a “confidant”.

Rosser denied giving advice to Lawrence in 2010 during the process of Lawrence’s defrocking following professional standards hearing.

Rosser has confirmed he provided “some level of assistance” to Graeme Lawrence during the professional standards process.

Rosser said he met Peter Rushton during a synod in the 1990s. Rosser said he didn’t have a “friendship” with Bishop Roger Herft, but had a lot of respect for him.

Rosser is being questioned about his evidence, in his statement, that he did not provide Herft with advice on child sexual abuse matters.

Rosser: “I have no recollection of doing that. I have seen documents as recently as Sunday which suggest that my memory was in error there, but no, I don’t believe I did in general.”

Counsel assisting the royal commission, Naomi Sharp, is being questioned about a file note by registrar Peter Mitchell after a meeting in 1998 where Mitchell has recorded Rosser advising the bishop that “wherever pastorally possible, he ought to decline to accept information or to read any reports”.

Rosser: “I don’t believe I would ever have advised him other than facetiously not to read documents or listen to reports.”

Justice Peter McClellan is challenging Rosser on his evidence that the subject of the meeting was about Herft being given information he felt needed to be reported to the police or authorities, against the wishes of complainants.

McClellan: “The paragraph is in fact quite contrary to what you have just said, isn’t it?”

Rosser: “I don’t believe so.”

McClellan: “But what you were saying as recorded here was, ‘If you don’t read these things and don’t receive information, then you won’t have to make a decision as to whether or not it’s proper or appropriate to leave a priest in place who you may have done the wrong thing’. That’s what it’s saying, isn’t it?”

Rosser: “I am suggesting that the sentence that nobody has hitherto wanted to read, that starts ‘In terms of an interview’ was the emphasis of my advice to him.”

After further questioning about the details of the file note, McClellan put to Rosser: “the note records you as giving advice that the choice was between leaving a priest where he may do further harm…. and pastoral considerations?”

Rosser: “That’s right.”

McClellan: “How could it ever be appropriate to leave a priest in a position where he may do further harm?”

Rosser: “The problem that I understood the bishop was referring to was a complainant who has told him something, has told him he or she doesn’t want it to go further, but the bishop, because of the seriousness of the allegation, has to.”

Rosser is now being questioned about the conviction of a Newcastle Anglican priest called Stephen Hatley Gray in 1990 for anally penetrating a boy.

Rosser agreed he signed the indictment as a Crown prosecutor, but said he had no recollection of doing so.

Rosser said he did not believe he represented Gray after that. He agreed that Gray received a “remarkably light sentence” of a three year good behaviour bond after his conviction.

Sharp: “Did you have any involvement in negotiating this sentence?”

Rosser: “No, no.”

Rosser is now being questioned about acting for former Anglican lay person James Brown in 1997, charged with child sex offences while he was an Anglican.

The matter was discharged at the committal stage.

Rosser was deputy chancellor at the time.

Sharp: “Did you make anyone within the diocese aware of the fact that a person who had formerly been a lay preacher within the diocese and a youth worker within the diocese had been charged with sexually offending against a boy?”

Rosser: “No.”

Sharp: “Why not?”

Rosser: “I wasn't in the habit of talking about my clients’ business. I owed him a duty of confidentiality. It just did not appear to have any relationship to any role that I held with the Anglican Church at that time.”

Justice McClellan has just asked Rosser if it had crossed his mind that as an official of the church, that in accepting the brief it may have appeared to be “putting the church at odds with those who may have been abused”.

Rosser: “I understand the perception. It did not occur to me, and I don’t believe it to have been the fact, that I owed any duty to anyone other than the bishop that conflicted with my representation of….”

McClellan: “we’re not really talking about you here?”

Rosser: “No, no.”

McClellan: “We’re talking about perception?”

Rosser: “I understand.”

McClellan: “You understand how vulnerable people who have been abused are?”

Rosser: “I understand that.”

McClellan: “And you understand also how vulnerable the church’s reputation is when it comes to members of the church abusing particularly children?”

Rosser: “I understand that. With the benefit of 20 years of hindsight, yes, yes, I see the point.”

McClellan: “You see the problem?”

Rosser: “I see the point, yes.”


Justice Peter McClellan is briefly questioning Herft about the change in information relating to what was found in 1998 when removalists tried to move Peter Rushton’s belongings.

McClellan: “Did it strike you as somewhat odd that you had firstly had an urgent report that there was child pornography, and then later that was contradicted?”

Herft: “That was probably the reason, why I wanted to be sure and having these other persons, including Bishop Beal, and Mr Hansen who came on the scene, and the registrar, involved in another search.”

McClellan: “One course would have been to tell the police, wouldn’t it?”

Herft: “Yes.”

McClellan: “Let them investigate?”

Herft: “As I told you, that would have been the preferred option that I had.”

McClellan: “Given the informing that you had, do you think you should have?”

Herft: “Looking back on the whole incident, yes, and now knowing what I know about Peter Rushton, it would become obvious that I would have done that.”



Barrister Mr Booth for Paul Rosser is now questioning the archbishop.

Herft has just told the royal commission that the trial of CKC was “constantly on the agenda”.

Booth has just put to Herft that “You have significant gaps in your memory”.

Herft has disagreed.

Booth is now challenging Herft about his evidence that he didn’t know Rosser was representing CKC.

Herft: “My recollection is that I was not informed at that stage of Mr Rosser’s involvement in the defence of CKC.”

Booth is questioning Herft about a letter written by solicitor Keith Allen about his client, CKC, indicating regular contact between the bishop and others, including registrar Peter Mitchell.

Herft has conceded, in response to Booth’s questions, that the allegations put to him about Graeme Lawrence offending against children were “extraordinary”. Herft could not recall any of the allegations being put to him.

The royal commission has been told Rosser’s position as deputy chancellor was an honorary one. Herft has agreed that Rosser was only engaged as a barrister on an ad hoc basis.

Booth is asking Herft whether he ever felt Rosser was “trying to push these matters into the background”?

Herft: “No, I didn’t get that impression at all, no.”

Booth: “He never once told you to sweep anything under the carpet?”

Herft: “Never, no.”

Herft has conceded he is a sensitive individual, and discreet.

Booth: “Would it be possible that when you first discussed with mr Rosser, way back in 1999, the allegation which we now know as the allegation against CKC, that you didn’t use names when you spoke to Mr Rosser. You didn’t use any names, but you rather just spoke to the issue of a priest or a person or a complainant? Would that have been possible?”

Herft: “It is possible, but given that the, in this particular case, Mr Rosser was advising not only me but the Dean to act and execute certain matters, the name would have become a part of the discussion , as far as I can recall it . But you have already reminded me, sir, that it is a fallible memory.”


Lawyer Ms Cahill for Archbishop Herft is asking questions. She is questioning him about his history of appointing women as clergy, and how that was received by male clergy.

Herft said women clergy were appointed to sexual abuse committees.

Herft: “It was when women were appointed to positions of significance in the diocese that people felt the place had become more accessible, to listen carefully and attentively to matters of complaint that were brought either of sexual harassment of adults, but also of children.”

Herft is being questioned about Peter Rushton.

He has told the royal commission that diocese lawyer Robert Caddies said “the possession by Mr Rushton of gay and adult pornography was not in and of itself grounds to remove his licence”.

Herft: “Yes. There was a conversation and I think there was some advice from Mr Caddies about that.”

Herft has just agreed that Rushton expressed the position “quite vigorously”, that if Herft sought to remove his licence Rushton would probably litigate against the diocese.

Herft has just told the royal commission that he knew “from pretty early on” that Graeme Lawrence was a homosexual, and in a relationship with teacher Greg Goyette.

Herft: “My understanding of the relationship, without prying into any private matters, was that it was a very stable relationship between two men and there was no hint whatsoever of other than faithfulness. That was my belief.”

Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.

Defrocked former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence.

Cahill: “And with hindsight, do you think that that perception that you had of Mr Lawrence’s personal relationship as a stable, loving and exclusive one influenced the conclusions you drew about his propensity to commit child abuse?”

Herft: “That would be accurate, yes.”

Herft said he has changed his mind about his views of priests, as a result of the child sexual abuse issue.

Herft: “My view of those who were ordained was of a very high moral and spiritual integrity and that the primary virtues of the gospel of caring for the vulnerable and the weak and the least and the lost would be at the centre of all of their life, and that every prayer and liturgy that we were engaged in as people who were granted that enormous privilege by God was something that was a sacred trust that had been entrusted to us, not only by God and the church but also by the community around us. So I had a very high view, which has been questioned within the last several years.”

Herft said he was “much more careful about attributing such a high level of privilege and grace to human beings, knowing my own frailties, but also acknowledging that people with high levels of spirituality need also to be attentive to the greater sins that are around us. So I’ve come to a much more realistic view, I think, of the priesthood and about those who serve in the priesthood.”

Herft has told the royal commission that Graeme Lawrence’s abuse had “shocked me deeply and it has contributed significantly to the way I acknowledge and respond to things”.


Archbishop Roger Herft outside Newcastle Courthouse for the Newcastle Anglican diocese royal commission public hearing.

Archbishop Roger Herft outside Newcastle Courthouse for the Newcastle Anglican diocese royal commission public hearing.

Barrister Maria Gerace has started questioning Archbishop Herft on behalf of disgraced former diocese registrar Peter Mitchell, who was jailed in 2002 after his conviction for defrauding the diocese of nearly $200,000.

Gerace is asking Herft about his habits relating to keeping file notes of meetings. He is being questioned about a 1998 file note about a call from a priest called Calvin Ford, relating to allegations flowing from the priest Peter Rushton moving house, and removalists finding pornography. The royal commission has already heard evidence from a removalist that he saw a child pornography video, with a jacket cover showing a naked boy of about 12 years old.

Gerace is asking Herft about what Ford is alleged to have told him removalists found: “a bag of pornographic videos, a poster on the wall, a male strip group in the entertainment world and a book of pictures of child pornography”.

Herft has agreed that at a subsequent meeting with Peter Rushton, the priest acknowledged he owned the pornography, but denied owning child pornography.

Diocesan lawyer Robert Caddies was consulted with, along with Bishop Robert Beal.

The file note shows that Rev Ford would go back to the removalists, and if they believed they had seen illegal material they should go to DOCS and the police. Beal would inspect the material.

All of this was agreed to at a meeting, and in file notes, in November 1998.

Gerace has just put to Herft that Ford told him at 10pm on November 27, 1998 that a removalist supervisor told him the removalists had not seen child pornography, but pornography. The royal commission has already heard evidence from one of those removalists, who said he had seen child pornography.

Colvin Ford later wrote to Herft saying there had been “a fair quantity of male-to-male pornography” owned by Rushton.

Herft is being questioned about the diocese’s “yellow envelope” system of keeping confidential allegations involving clergy, and the fact that some individual counsellors or contact persons were keeping confidential allegations, and refusing to hand them over because they believed they were confidential. 

Herft has just agreed there was no yellow envelope containing allegations against Peter Rushton, a day after he agreed there was no yellow envelope of allegations against Graeme Lawrence, despite the royal commission hearing of a number of serious and credible allegations being made against both men.

Herft is now being questioned about complaints against a person known as DAV, who complained to the diocese committee that a second person, known to the royal commission as DAU, had made an allegedly false complaint against DAV, directly to DAV. Herft said the diocese committee provided pastoral support to DAV and DAU.

The matter did not proceed any further because DAU and his family decided the matter was not to go further, and the diocese received a legal letter saying that.

Gerace is now questioning Herft about the trial against the priest CKC in 2001, charged with child sex offences against CKA. The matter was discontinued after the tendering of a parish register which provided an alibi for the priest.

Herft was questioned on Monday about his communications with diocese trustee and solicitor Keith Allen, who represented CKC, along with deputy chancellor Paul Rosser.

Herft said he cannot recall any conversation with anyone in which it was raised with him that a diocese statement saying CKC had been “acquitted” was incorrect. The Hunter man known as CKA has already given evidence about the profound distress the diocese’s handling of the trial and its aftermath had caused him, including senior diocese members representing the priest, the diocese’s incorrect statement, and an article by Mitchell saying there had never been a case to answer.

Gerace is now questioning Herft about a letter by him to Herft in 2002, saying it was important that clergy filled out parish registers diligently and carefully.

Tuesday, August 30

9.32AM: Good morning. It’s Joanne McCarthy back for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing, which enters its eleventh day of hearings in Newcastle today.

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.

On Monday we heard evidence from Archbishop Roger Herft, the Bishop of Newcastle between 1993 and 2005. The archbishop was questioned about being told of serious child sex allegations involving former Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence on three separate occasions, in 1995, 1997 and 1999, and his response to receiving those allegations.

The archbishop said he could not recall receiving any allegations about Lawrence, and could not recall speaking to Lawrence three times, and receiving denials from him.

Herft accepted the above events occurred after the royal commission produced documents clearly showing he had received the allegations and had spoken to Lawrence.

The hearing has just started.  

Wrap up of day 10:

This story Day 11 of the Newcastle child sexual abuse royal commission first appeared on Newcastle Herald.