Frank Houston was a ‘serial paedophile’ and extent of his crimes may never be known, court hears

The Guardian [London, England]

December 18, 2022

By Australian Associated Press

Trial hears Frank Houston also told his son Brian, founder of Hillsong, that he was abused by his own grandfather as a child

Hillsong founder Brian Houston has told a court he believes his father was a “serial paedophile” and the extent of his crimes may not be known.

Houston said it was quite likely his father sexually abused multiple children and the number of victims would never be revealed.

Frank Houston confessed to his son about one case of abuse in 1999, which occurred in New Zealand several decades earlier.

After the abuse came to light, Frank Houston was banned from preaching, but the public and authorities were not alerted.

Brian Houston, 68, is accused of covering up his father’s abuse until Frank Houston’s death in November 2004, after learning of the crime when his father confessed to him in 1999.

Houston has pleaded not guilty.

“I have no doubt now my father was a serial paedophile and we’ll probably never know the extent of it,” Houston told Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Monday.

He also told the court he did not believe his father remained a risk to the community in his old age due to his diminishing mental state.

Magistrate Gareth Christofi asked Houston if he had any concerns his father would sexually abuse other children after he failed to report the allegations.

“Did you not think, ‘people really ought to know about this … because it’s potentially dangerous’?” Christofi asked.

“At 78 years of age, failing health, I didn’t believe he still was a risk to anyone,” Houston replied.

“Physically he was healthy but his memory was failing very quickly.”

Houston also claimed there was no evidence his father continued to abuse minors after around the late 1970s.

He added that he did not believe his mother ever understood the “gravity” of the abuse carried out by his father.

“My mother never understood. She was from I guess a different generation. She had her head in the sand,” Houston told the court.

“She was complaining about Frank being treated too harshly.”

Houston told the court his father had met his victim at Sydney’s Redfern station and organised to pay him $2000, later topped up with a $10,000 payment when Houston intervened.

“It was his feeble attempt to try and right the wrong,” Houston said.

Houston also said he spoke to his father’s victim on the phone and offered him counselling on behalf of the Assemblies of God in Australia.

“He said ‘I don’t want your bloody counselling’ and he cut the meeting short,” Houston said.

He said he was involved in organising to pay the victim the additional $10,000 which he did through a lawyer to avoid it appearing like a cover-up.

He told the court he wanted to make sure that in paying the money he was not in any way silencing the victim or preventing him from going to the police in the future.

“I was wanting to be careful that there was no cover-up here … and it couldn’t be seen that there was a cover-up,” Houston said.

It was his intention to distance himself and the church from the payment, he said.

“I wanted to be sure whatever document was being drawn up that this was a payment from Frank to (the victim) – between those too,” Houston said.

“I was trying to stay arms length from it.”

Houston said he later received a call from the victim saying he had not been paid and had been told by Frank Houston that he had no money.

“I was frustrated that no money had been paid but also I was frustrated Frank had told the victim to phone me,” Houston said.

Houston said it was his understanding the money was eventually paid but he did not know by whom.

“Do you know what the terms for the payment ended up being?” Houston’s lawyer Phillip Boulten SC asked him.

“No,” he replied.

Earlier, the court was told Frank Houston said at the time he sexually abused an underage boy he was feeling “emotionally low”.

Frank Houston also told his son that his own grandfather had come home drunk one night and abused him when he was growing up, the court was told on Monday.

Houston told the court his father claimed the abuse was a one-off, despite other allegations later coming to light.

“He told me it was a once-off incident, done at a time when he was emotionally low,” Houston said. He described his father at the time of dealing with the fallout from the abuse as “embarrassed, ashamed, humiliated, deflective, depressed”.

Houston also recounted informing a room full of about 35 church pastors about his father’s abuse in around 2000 when it came to light.

“I found it tremendously difficult every time I had to tell the story again,” he told the court.

The hearing continues.