Marist Brotherís Closed Classroom Blinds Raised Suspicion, Inquiry Told
June 12, 2014
|In 1996, Gregory Sutton admitted 67 counts of child sexual assault. He was released from jail in 2008. Photograph: ABC|
The assistant principal at a Catholic school thought it was strange that a Marist brother used to keep his classroom blinds closed.
The teacher, former Brother Gregory Sutton, has since been convicted and jailed for numerous child sex offences.
Sutton started work at St Carthage's School at Lismore in 1985 after stints at schools throughout NSW, the ACT and Queensland.
Soon after Suttonís arrival at St Carthage's school at Lismore, northern NSW in 1985, assistant principal Jan O'Grady began noticing odd practices, including that even on sunny days he would keep the classroom blinds closed.
He isolated himself from other staff and used to hang around with the same small group of students.
"I thought it was all very strange," O'Grady told the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in Canberra on Thursday.
Her suspicions were raised further when she opened the door to Sutton's classroom after school one day to find him chasing and tickling a year 5 girl.
"There was something about what I had seen that just did not feel right," O'Grady said.
As the suspect behaviour continued, she became aware that Sutton had a history of "difficulties" at other schools.
Despite a written warning, the behaviour continued and O'Grady's anger grew until she went to the Catholic Education Office in March 1987.
"Whatever happens, he will not be coming back to the school while I'm here or I will go to the papers," she recalls telling senior staff at the office.
She was guaranteed that Sutton would not return, and he did not.
In 1996, Sutton, who had by then left the Marist Brothers, admitted 67 counts of child sexual assault. He was released from jail in 2008.
The convictions include an act of indecency on a boy aged 10 and 11 at St Carthage's in 1986 and a girl of the same age at the same school.
Offences against the latter victim include five counts of sexual intercourse.
Admitting that she suspected what was going on was "against the law", O'Grady was asked why she didn't take her concerns to the police at the time.
She said she raised the issues repeatedly with then school principal Sister Julia O'Sullivan and left the matter in her hands.
The commission is examining the cases of Sutton and fellow Marist brother John Chute, also known as Brother Kostka. Chute has also been jailed for child sex offences after a 40-year teaching career at schools in NSW, the ACT and Queensland.