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Marist head did not think sexual abuse was a crime

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse meeting in Canberra.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse meeting in Canberra. Aap

A FORMER deputy principal of Trinity Catholic College has admitted he took no action after learning Brother Gregory Sutton had been "kissing and hugging" students, saying he did not, at the time, think the sexual abuse of children was a crime, the royal commission has heard.

Brother Anthony Hunt was questioned over how he could have been in charge of about 600 students as deputy principal of the Lismore Catholic college from 1985 to 1988 but not have considered the students to be at risk of sexual assault from predators such as former Brother Sutton.

"It's the word 'crime' that is difficult for me looking back to that time," he said. "I would have regarded it as a very serious matter but I have to say, yes, the word 'crime' did not enter into my awareness."

When questioned by the counsel assisting the commission, Brother Hunt said he knew theft was a crime and was aware of the term child sexual assault but had not heard the word pedophile before.

As well as deputy principal, Brother Anthony Hunt was also the Lismore Marist Brother Superior from 1984 to 1988 and thus responsible for the other brothers, including Sutton who has since been convicted of sexual offences against children.

Between 1985 and 1986, Brother Hunt attended several meetings with St Carthage's principal Sister Julia O'Sullivan, the school counsellor and the assistant principal Jan O'Grady over concerns Brother Sutton was behaving inappropriately towards students.

Brother Hunt told the royal commission he understood "inappropriate behaviour" to mean "kissing and cuddling", however he failed to take any action on the allegations.

"Essentially I saw the matter as in the hands of the school principal and executive with our own authorities, our own provincial superiors," he said.

Sutton's time at the school came to an end shortly after an event in April 1987 involving a 10-year-old girl referred to as ACU.

The commission heard Sutton took the girl on car trips and described her in his diary with phrases such as "Isn't she magnificent!" and "What an afternoon".

After the discovery of the incriminating diary entry, Brother Hunt said he never referred the matter to police or child welfare officers because he believed it was "in the hands of the school authorities" despite acknowledging it may have indicated Sutton was involved in some form of child sexual abuse.

Topics:  gregory sutton marist brothers royal commission



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