Second church official admits ...

By Sarah Dean
Daily Mail (UK)
June 18, 2014

Marist Brother Alexis Turton at Wednesday's hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Convicted paeodophile Gregory Sutton was sent to Canada for 'intensive therapy'

Brother Anthony Hunt has told a Royal Commission that during the 1980s he was not aware that child sex abuse was a crime

Second church official admits he didn't know that touching a child 'intimately' was a crime just a day after fellow brother said he wasn't aware paedophilia was illega

A second Marist church official, who held high positions in the order up to 2012, has said he didn't know touching a child 'intimately' was a crime and would need to get legal advice to find out.

Alexis Turton, who was until 2012 head of the orders' professional standards office, has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Handling of Child Sexual abuse, he only knew sexual intercourse with a child was a crime in the 80s.

He was giving evidence in the case of former brother Gregory Sutton who was jailed in 1996 for 67 counts of sexual abuse against boys and girls in NSW, Queensland and the ACT.

On Wednesday, it was also revealed that three days after it became known that police were investigating Sutton, Turton put the paedophile on a plane to Canada.

Turton denied repeatedly that he knew police were involved when he sent Sutton for 'intensive therapy' to the Southdown clinic in Canada.

Br Turton became involved in 1985, when as vice-provincial he visited St Carthage's school in Lismore where the principal had raised concerns about Sutton's behaviour with primary school girls.

He told the commission he was not aware in 1985 that Sutton had a history of abuse at other schools, specifically at a primary school in far North Queensland where the principal had told the order Sutton was interfering with boys.

As far as he knew, there were no files the order had that would record his history.

He told Simeon Beckett, counsel for the commission, that in 1985 he would have considered an adult having sexual intercourse with a child to be a crime but while he knew touching was wrong he would have to check if it was criminal.

Mr Beckett said: 'Are you seriously saying that if an adult touched a child on the vagina, for example, that that was to your knowledge, not a crime in 1985 and 1987?'

Br Turton: 'No, I couldn't say that to my knowledge that it wasn't a crime. I certainly couldn't say that. I would know it would be very wrong and probably criminal, but I would want to go to an expert if it came to a definition.'

Mr Beckett: 'What if a child was made to touch an adult, a man for example on the penis. Did you consider in 1985 to 1987, whether that was a crime?'

Br Turton said: 'I would consider it definitely to be wrong'.

He also told the commission he did not interpret 'inappropriate behaviour' as specifically relating to sexual assault.

When Sister Julia, the principal at St Carthage's informed the order she had sent letters to Sutton about his behaviour, Br Turton saw them as warning in the industrial relations sense and did not act to remove Sutton.

He was finally moved in 1987 but Br Turton said he was not responsible for that because it was in the hands of the then provincial Br Alman Dwyer.

Sutton was sent to the clinic in Canada on August 18, 1989 and documents produced at the commission showed he was telling people there that when investigations began to surface about his sexual activities with children 'within three days he was on a plane heading for Canada'.

Another communication from Canada to Br Turton dated August 30, 1989 stated that Sutton had said his provincial had decided he should come to Southdown and this 'was due to the fact that investigations were occurring on himself for school activities five years ago regarding his child abuse'.

Br Turton denied he had sent Sutton to Canada to avoid the police investigations in Australia.

And when he was told that sending Sutton to Canada was first raised by him on August 15 and he was on a plane on the 18th, Br Turton said he did not consider it 'excessive haste'.

'I didn't see it as excessive haste; I saw it as continuing the process that we had been through to get him through to intensive therapy,' he said.

He said it was possible a session was starting in Canada and there would be a significant break until he got to the next one.

At the time, parents of children who were at St Thomas More School, Cambelltown, NSW had gone to police alleging Sutton, who was there from 1984 to 1985, had abused year five girls.

Mr Beckett put it to him that the account he gave the commission about the reason for sending Sutton to Canada was false.

'That is not correct your honour,' Br Turton said.

Br Turton also denied that he was the author of a memo which detailed Sutton's history of abusive behaviour with children going back to the 1970s.

In that memo the name 'Bart' is used, not Gregory Sutton although the history is Sutton's.

'It's a mystery to me', Br Turton said.

Mr Beckett put it to him that the name was used to deceive a reader on the subject of the memorandum, and readers were likely to be police and anyone involved in civil litigation against the Marist Brothers.

'I am totally mystified by this document. I can't make any other assessment of it,' Br Turton said.

On Tuesday, the former superior of a NSW Marist Brothers community and deputy principal of a school for 600 students also told an inquiry he did not associate child sexual abuse with crime in the 1980s.

Brother Anthony Hunt was head of the Lismore Marist community to which Gregory Sutton - who was later jailed for sexually assaulting 15 children - was attached from 1985 to 1987.

Brother Hunt was also deputy principal of the Marist Trinity College in Lismore which had 600 students at the time.

He gave evidence at the royal commission into child sexual abuse that although concerns were raised with him about the behaviour of Sutton at St Carthage's primary school, he left it to the school to deal with it.

Towards the end of two-and-a-half hours of evidence he said he considered complaints of inappropriate behaviour by Sutton as 'excessive expressions of affection' and had not heard the word pedophile at the time.

'When you give that answer, that as the deputy principal of that Catholic college in the mid-to-late 80s in this nation, you did not understand that the sexual assault of children was a crime?' Presiding Commissioner Justice Jennifer Coate asked.

Brother Hunt responded 'I would have to say that's correct at the time.'

Justice Coate asked him if he accepted that part of his role was to protect children.

'What is the difficulty that you have with accepting that it was a crime,' Justice Coate asked.

Justice Coate asked him if he had seen media reports at the time about people charged with sexual offences against children.

'I don't specifically remember, but I can't rule it out,' Brother Hunt said.

Justice Coate asked: 'Is that a serious answer to the Royal Commission, Brother?'

To which Brother Hunt replied it was the best he could do with his understanding at the time.

He said at the time he saw it as his duty to pass on concerns about brothers to the provincial and deputy provincial of the order who headed the community in Australia.

Brother Hunt said his awareness grew in time and in retrospect he was sorry for the 'great harm that was done to children'.

Meanwhile, Swimming Australia's response to child sexual abuse allegations made against two high profile coaches is to come under the spotlight at a royal commission next month.

The commission will examine Swimming Australia's reaction to claims made against Olympic coaches Scott Volkers and Terry Buck.



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