How the church hid the crimes of Brother Greg Sutton (as usual)
June 15, 2014
Catholic school authorities failed to report the child-sex crimes of Brother Gregory Joseph Sutton to the police, even after one of his victims eventually committed suicide, according to evidence given to Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission on 16 June 2014. Brother Sutton admitted the crimes to the boy's family.
Brother Greg Sutton (born 19 March 1951) was a member of the Marist Brothers Order, which sent him to teach primary school children, from the early 1970s until the late 1980s, in Catholic schools in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Sutton's first teaching job was in 1973-75 in a North Queensland town where the Marists had a primary and a secondary school.
Brother John Holdsworth, who was the Marist superior for both these schools, told the Royal Commission that in the 1970s he was not concerned by Sutton's behaviour towards children.
Brother Holdsworth said he could not recall the headmaster of the primary section, Denis Doherty, raising concerns about Sutton's behaviour in 1974.
Mr Doherty (a Marist Brother at the time) gave evidence at the Royal Commission that he had complained to Brother Holdsworth about Sutton's "unprofessional" behaviour.
But Br Holdsworth said he only recalled thinking at the time that Mr Doherty and Sutton just did not get on. Cross-examined in the witness box, he agreed that in 1989 he went with the father of a boy, referred to by the code-name "A.D.O.", to visit Sutton who had been moved to the Brothers' residence at St Joseph's College, Hunter's Hill, in Sydney.
ADO had taken his own life and his father came to see Brother Holdsworth because he had found out his son was sexually assaulted by Sutton when he was a child aged eight or nine.
"I was quite shocked because Sutton (who was still friendly with the family) had offered to arrange the funeral," Brother Holdsworth said.
Sutton had been moved from the Queensland school to a school at Mosman in Sydney when Mr Doherty spoke to the then Sydney-based Provincial (that is, the leader) of the Marist order, Brother Charles Howard, about Sutton's relationship with children.
Mr Doherty said that Sutton had "favourites" among the children and would take a child out in the Marist community's car.
Brother Holdsworth said he did not attend the meeting between the father and Brother Sutton but waited for the father. He said the meeting was short and ADO's father told him that Brother Sutton admitted he had "interfered with ADO".
Counsel Assisting the Commission, Mr Simeon Beckett, asked Brother Holdsworth about whether he relaised that Sutton had confessed to a criminal offence.
Br Holdsworth replied: "I can't give a specific answer as to why at the time I did not take that view."
Holdsworth also said he did recall telling Brother Alexis Turton, who was leader of the Marist order in 1989, that the boy had committed suicide but he could not remember telling him about the meeting with ADO's father.
When ADO's father later found out that the Marists had sent Gregory Sutton on a trip to Canada "for treatment", he came to Br Holdsworth and accused the Marist Brothers of sweeping the matter "under the rug".
According to evidence at the Royal Commission on 10-13 June 2014, the Marist headquarters in Sydney (not the local school) appointed Brother Greg Sutton (and the other Brothers) to the various schools. The Commission was told that, whenever a new child-abuse complaint surfaced about Brother Greg, the local principal was not allowed to deal with it ("because Greg is a Brother, not merely a lay teacher"). Each principal was forced to hand the matter to the Marist headquarters in Sydney, which would then send Brother Greg to another school, without warning the next principal (or the parents) about Brother Greg being danger to children.
According to evidence at the Royal Commission, the Marist leadership avoided reporting these crimes to the police. Finally, after twenty years, one family considered contacting the child-protection police. But, meanwhile the Marist headquarters gave Brother Greg a plane ticket to North America where (perhaps) he would be beyond the reach of the Australian police.
The Royal Commission's public hearing
On 10 June 2014, the Royal Commission began holding a two-weeks public hearing (Case Study 13) which includes the question of how the Marist Brothers administration responded (or failed to respond) to the crimes of Brother Gregory Sutton, plus another Marist (Brother John "Kostka" Chute).
The public hearing was told that Gregory Sutton was finally convicted in New South Wales in 1996 on 67 charges relating to his 15 of his NSW victims (but this NSW court could not deal with any of his Queensland or Canberra offences). He served 12 years of his 18-year NSW sentence behind bars and was released in 2008
The NSW judge in 1996 placed a suppression order on Sutton's name, thus preventing the media from reporting his conviction. Because of this 1996 order, the Royal Commission in 2014 considered giving Sutton a code-name, "Z.A.". But in early June 2014 the Commission successfully asked the NSW court to lift the suppression order. Thus the Commission announced that it would refer to Sutton by his real name.
On the first day of the public hearing, Sutton's lawyer (Greg Walsh) applied to the Commission to have his client's identity kept secret on the basis that a public shaming could cause "psychological damage" to Sutton. Commissioner Jennifer Coate (chairing this hearing) rejected Sutton's application. Thus in 2014, for the first time since 1996, the media became able to publish the name, Gregory Joseph Sutton.
The Counsel Assisting the Commission, Mr Simeon Beckett, told the hearing that evidently 21 of Sutton's victims have complained to the Marist Brothers hierarchy [while other victims have remained silent].
Sutton was a danger to children from Day One
The hearing was told that from as early as 1973, when Sutton started his first teachng appointment in North Queensland (aged 21), his colleagues raised concerns about his behaviour towards children.
The Royal Commission was told that Brother Greg Sutton's schools included:
A parish school school in North Queensland, 1973-75;
Marist Sacred Heart primary school, Mosman, Sydney, 1976-77;
Marist Brothers primary school, Eastwood, Sydney, 1978-79;
Marist College (primary section), Canberra, 1980-82;
St Thomas More's primary school in Campbelltown, western Sydney, 1984-85; and
St Carthage's parish primary school at Lismore, northern NSW, from 1985 to April 1987.
A former Marist Brother, Mr Denis William Doherty, told the Commission that he was working in a North Queensland parish parish school when Brother Greg Sutton arrived to teach there in 1973.
Mr Doherty, who was then aged 26 (and senior to Greg Sutton), became worried about how Sutton was "playing" with children. Sutton would have children in his classroom before the morning's official starting time. Sutton seemed to regard several of the children as his favourites. He was acting like their playmate, rather than as their teacher.
Mr Doherty will continue his evidence when the public hearing resumes on 16 June 2014. According to a Commission document, Mr Doherty will give evidence that in 1974 he complained about Sutton to the local Marist Community Superior in this North Queensland town. Mr Doherty will also say that he told the Provincial leader (Brother Charles Howard) at the Marist headquarters in Sydney that “I am suspicious about Sutton. I fear he may be interfering with children.”
The hearing will explore what action was taken by the Marist leadership in response to Mr Doherty's complaints. (The outcome was that the Marist headquarters transferred Brother Greg Sutton to another school.)
Crimes at a Sydney school
Two female victims of Brother Greg Sutton gave evidence at the public hearing. They were pupils at St Thomas More primary school in Campbelltown, near Sydney, in the mid-1980s when they were in Fifth Class, about ten years old. (This was Sutton's second Sydney school.) Sutton's assaults on these two girls were serious, including digital penetration of the vagina and also being forced to touch or kiss Brother Sutton's penis.
Five years later, when she was in Year 10 at secondary school, one of these girls finally made a police statement, which was arranged by her parents after they learned about the abuse.
Each of these two victims, now aged 40 in 2014, told the inquiry that Brother Greg Sutton's "religious" status, as a Catholic Brother, made them vulnerable to the attacks. Each of them also related how the abuse (and the church's harbouring of Brother Sutton) intimidated them and disrupted their childhood development, causing them serious personal problems in their adult years.
One of the women, referred to at hearing by the code-name "ADM", told the commission she and her best friend were in Sutton's Grade 5 class when he befriended them and began asking them to sit on either side of his lap before eventually asking if he could "go inside" her pants.
As time went on, Sutton became more aggressive in his behaviour, asking the girls to see him before class or after hours and abusing them in the school storage room, often asking them to kiss each other and sending them back to class with a bottle of glue or paint to hide what had really occurred.
ADM recalled an occasion where Sutton took her into the storeroom, told her the best friend was "a better kisser but you are better at the other stuff", took off his robe and forced her to masturbate him.
When another teacher became suspicious, she was warned "we have to be more careful" and when her parents asked her why her teacher wanted to see her of a weekend, ADM lied and said it was because she and her friend - known to the commission as ADQ - were in trouble.
"My parents were so angry at me...at the time I knew what Brother Greg was doing to me was wrong but I felt I couldn't tell mum and dad because it shouldn't have been happening" she said. "I thought that I would be the one that got into trouble".
In her submission to the royal commission, the other woman (code-name "ADQ") said Sutton had gone as far as to warn on many occasions - including a time when he forced her get on the ground as he removed his pants and said "kiss it" - that "if someone sees us, I will kill your parents and brother and sister and then you will have no one to love".
"What he said was enough to scare me from telling anyone other than (ADM) about what he was doing to me...I was only 10 and I believed he would kill my parents if I told them," she said
"To this day, I still find it hard to talk about."
One morning, before class had started, Sutton told ADM "I'm leaving and going to Lismore at the end of the year".
When she asked "are you going to do it to anyone there?", Sutton replied "I'm not sure".
Offences in Lismore, NSW
In subsequent years, Sutton continued to abuse children at another school - St Carthage's primary school, in Lismore, northern NSW, where he spent 1985, 1986 and part of 1987.
Mr Beckett, the counsel assisting the commission, said the hearing would examine whether relevant complaints of abuse at several of Sutton's early schools in the 1970s (such as the North Queensland one) were passed to the Lismore school in the 1980s.
At St Carthage's, the assistant principal (Jan O'Grady) soon became concerned about some of Brother Greg Sutton's practices.
Ms O'Grady said in evidence:
"The blinds [in his classroom] were drawn. It struck me as a very closed classroom.The door was often closed too. It was very closed in and very dark. I thought it was very strange; I had never seen that before in a classroom."
Ms O'Grady said she had seen Sutton chasing two young girls around his classroom before catching and hugging one of them.
Ms O'Grady said that, after Brother Greg took an afternoon off school, she became suspicious and eventually looked in his school diary which he kept on his desk. A diary entry for that day said:
“Picked up [girl's name]. What an afternoon. She is magnificent."
His entry for the following day said: “I had a fight with [same girl] and we made up.”
[The Commission has been told that this girl was aged 10 or 11.]
Ms O’Grady said she had no evidence that Brother Greg had been having sex with the girl, although she thought “maybe”.
"I concluded he had acted absolutely inappropriately for a teacher in our school by picking up a child and spending the rest of the day with her," Ms O'Grady said.
She did not report her suspicions to police. Instead she handed over all the information to the Catholic Education Office of the Lismore diocese (this office has oversight over all parish schools in the Lismore diocese, which covers covers the NSW north coast, extending from Port Macquarie to the Queensland border).
Ms O'Grady said that, when she rang the Catholic Education Office, they suggested that Brother Sutton take a month off and then return to the school. She said she was furious and almost hysterical and contacted the then former director of the Catholic Education for the Diocese of Lismore, John Kelly, and it was only then that Bother Sutton was removed from the school.
More about the Lismore school
The counsel assisting the commission, Mr Simeon Beckett, has told the hearing that further evidence is expected to be given about Brother Gregory Sutton's activities at St Carthage’s Primary School in Lismore in 1985-86.
Mr Beckett stated:
"The school was operated by the Lismore Catholic Education Office for the Diocese of Lismore, and the principal was a Presentation Sister, Sister Julia O’Sullivan. [Three ex-pupils, code-named ACT, ADB and ACV] have alleged that they were sexually abused by Brother Sutton in 1985. ACT’s mother complained to a teacher at the school that her daughter had been touched on the upper thigh by Brother Sutton. The complaint was referred to Sister Julia. Other teachers had concerns about Brother Sutton and favouritism shown to certain students.
"The then Vice-Provincial of the Marist Brothers, Brother Alexis Turton [at the Marist headquarters in Sydney], visited St Carthage’s and investigated the concerns expressed to him. The public hearing will explore what Brother Turton was told and what action he took with respect to Brother Sutton.
"Brother Sutton remained at the school and the evidence is likely to reveal that in December of that year  the executive of the school sought assurances from Brother Sutton including that he not be in a classroom with any children out of school hours.
"In February 1986 Brother Turton returned to St Carthage’s and, together with the principal, had Brother Sutton sign a letter of undertaking about his behaviour...
"The hearing will explore what action, if any, was taken by the school and the Marist Brothers about such apparent breaches."
Brother Sutton was convicted of performing an act of indecency on [pupil code-named] "ACZ" in 1986 at St Carthage’s when he was 10 or 11 years old.
In November and December of 1986 Brother Sutton went on a ‘personal renewal’ course to New Zealand. The public hearing will explore whether he was sent on that course because of concerns about sexual offending with children. He returned to teach at St Carthage’s in 1987.
Mr Beckett told the hearing:
"The evidence is likely to reveal that discussions were had about Brother Sutton between the then Provincial (Brother Alman Dwyer) and the Director of the local Catholic Education Office (John Kelly), apparently 'about problems Greg was causing at Lismore'.
"The evidence is likely to reveal that by April 1987 there were serious concerns about the welfare of [pupil] ACU as she was frequently in Brother Sutton’s company and her parents had said that he often took her out on car trips, picnics and even to Byron Bay.
"The Royal Commission is also likely to hear that Brother Sutton asked to be moved from the school at about this time. On 30 April 1987 Brother Sutton was removed from St Carthage’s by the Provincial who placed him in an administrative role in Drummoyne, NSW."
Evidence available from the criminal trial of Brother Sutton reveals the true extent of his offending against [pupil] ACU. Brother Sutton pleaded guilty to 5 counts of sexual intercourse being digitally penetrating ACU’s vagina and 3 counts of assault with an act of indecency being touching ACU’s vagina or forcing her to touch his penis. ACU was ten or eleven years old at the time. The majority of the acts occurred well before he was removed at the end of April 1987.
Mr Beckett said that the public hearing will hear from those involved with Brother Sutton at St Carthage’s including ...
•the Vice-Provincial [at Marist headquarters in Sydney], Brother Turton,
•the Superior of Lismore, Brother Anthony Hunt, and
•the Director of the Catholic Education Office [for the Lismore diocese], John Kelly.
Mr Beckett told the hearing:
""The evidence is likely to reveal that in 1989 Brother Sutton admitted to Brother Turton he had engaged in sexual conduct with [pupil] ADO. The public hearing will explore whether the admission to Brother Turton was reported to the police.
"Shortly thereafter Brother Sutton was sent for counselling at Southdown in Canada, an institute to which sexual offenders could attend for therapy. Brother Sutton left the Marist Brothers in 1991 and received formal 'dispensation', meaning that he no longer maintained the title 'Brother'. The hearing will explore what assistance the Marist Brothers provided to him to attend Southdown and what connection, if any, he maintained with the Marist Brothers."
Meanwhile, Mr Beckett said, in Australia 14 warrants were issued for his arrest in 1992 and a further 10 in 1993. However, the evidence is likely to reveal that Brother Sutton continued at Southdown until 1992 and then from 1994-1996 became a headmaster at a school in St Louis, Missouri. Extradition proceedings were commenced and Sutton returned to Australia. The hearing will also explore what assistance, if any, was provided by the Marist Brothers to the NSW Police in seeking his extradition.
On 8 November 1996 Sutton pleaded guilty to 67 charges of child sexual assault and was sentenced in the District Court, Sydney, to 18 years imprisonment, with a 12 year non-parole period. Sutton has completed his term of imprisonment and lives in the community.
Mr Beckett said that the public hearing will examine what was known about allegations of child sexual abuse or other indicative conduct concerning Brother Sutton at the points at which he was transferred between each of the relevant schools and whether those allegations were the reasons for all, some or none of the transfers.
The proceedings can be seen on a webcast
The public hearings of Case Study 13 (including both Kostka Chute and Sutton) are being streamed, via webcast, on the Royal Commission’s website. To reach the Commission's webpage for Case Study 13, click HERE.
This hearings are being held in Canberra but the issue is of Australia-wide significance.