Boy's warning of Marist brother sex abuse ignored, commission hears

By Helen Davidson
Guardian (UK)
June 11, 2014

John Chute, also known as Brother Kostka, was jailed for two years in 2009 for child abuse.

A man who repeatedly warned the Marist Brothers that one of their members, Brother Kostka Chute, had abused him and was still abusing other young students said he was ignored and given false promises that Chute would be kept away from children, the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has heard.

The 13th public hearing for the commission is examining the Marist Brothers order’s response to numerous allegations and complaints that two of its members were sexually abusing students for decades. It is known at least five men among their ranks abused children. Four were convicted and one took his own life shortly after confessing.

Greg Sutton and Kostka Chute were shifted from school to school across Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT throughout their teaching careers, despite – and in some cases because of – multiple complaints against them alleging child sexual abuse and inappropriate behaviour.

Sutton, who could be legally identified for the first time in 18 years from Tuesday, was convicted in 1996 after pleading guilty to 67 charges of sexual assault against 15 children. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison, with a minimum term of 12 years, and was released in 2008.

The commission also learned that 48 claims had been made against Chute to the Marist Brothers, of which all but two were settled financially for a total of $6.84m. Of the 19 claims made against Sutton 16 resulted in payments totalling $1.82m.

Chute eventually admitted to abusing six boys and was jailed for two years in 2009.

Damian De Marco told the public hearing on Tuesday afternoon Chute – then his year 7 form master at Marist College, Canberra – groomed him "for months" before assaulting him in a storeroom in 1981.

Chute built up relationships with the young boys, including De Marco, whom he also taught religious education and sexual education.

"Brother Kostka was very affectionate towards the boys that hung out around his office," De Marco told the hearing.

"He would sometimes hug us or touch us on the shoulder. It was just part of life with the boys that hung in the office."

The commission heard that after Chute sexually assaulted De Marco, the young boy did not tell anyone, thinking he would not be believed because Chute was such a "godly figure".

In year 12 De Marco saw Chute building a relationship with a young boy, and he took his concerns to his new form master, John Doyle.

"I then said words to the effect, ‘I'm really worried about this year 7 boy. I've been watching him for quite a while and I've got a strong suspicion that Brother Kostka might be sexually assaulting him.’ "

De Marco also detailed how Chute had sexually assaulted him.

Doyle told him he would deal with it, De Marco said. There was no suggestion De Marco should go to the police, the commission was told, nor could De Marco recall any offer of help in approaching police or seeing a "youth advocate".

"He never suggested I do anything," De Marco told the commission.

The next day Doyle told De Marco he had spoken to the headmaster and Chute denied the allegations. "Nothing will be done," Doyle allegedly said.

"I regret now that I did not approach that boy myself," said De Marco.

Doyle, who appeared via audio link from Britain where he is living and working as a teacher, told the commission on Wednesday he sometimes saw year 7 students hanging around Chute's office including during morning and lunch breaks, but he never witnessed children being assaulted.

He said he was "shocked" to learn of Chute's actions in about 2006 or 2007, and could not recall concerns ever being expressed to him by any students, including De Marco.

He could not recall any meeting with De Marco as De Marco described, nor speaking with the headmaster, Brother Terence Heinrich, about the allegations.

However, an interview between an insurance investigator and Heinrich shows Heinrich had "the vaguest of memories" of a meeting with Doyle which included "some reference" to Chute.

"There were no specifics if I remember correctly but a concern about Kostka, and my reaction was that I've raised this with the provincial and I will do it again," Heinrich said.

Doyle maintained he had no recollection of such a meeting but said had he received a complaint about Chute his policy would have been to take it to the headmaster.

De Marco said he made another attempt to urge the school to act when he heard Chute was still a teacher in 1993. De Marco met the headmaster, Brother Christopher Wade, and told of his abuse at the hands of Chute. De Marco demanded Chute be removed from the school.

Wade is expected to appear before the commission in coming days.

In September 1993 the Marist Brother provincial Alexis Turton flew from Sydney and met De Marco at the airport. De Marco told Turton of his history.

"I clearly told him what had happened to me, that it wasn't just hugs. He had trapped me at the back of the storeroom and had tried to get his hands down my pants and had prevented me from getting away when I was trying to get away," said De Marco.

Turton's notes from the meeting, submitted as evidence, described De Marco's allegations: "the accusation was that it took place for three or four months, certainly not extreme, and not anything inside clothes or even genital. Nevertheless the young man felt quite uncomfortable."

De Marco told the commission Turton's notes were "very incorrect".

"There was nothing that happened over three or four months, it was just the one event. And the fact that there was not anything inside the clothes – he certainly, he certainly got his fingers into my pants, if not further."

De Marco told the commission Turton said Chute had denied the allegations and no one else had complained, but promised De Marco that Chute would not be allowed to work with children any more or to return to the school.

Turton's notes simply claim he gave the assurance that Chute would be "carefully supervised" and never left alone with boys.

When asked if he was perhaps mistaken in his recollection of a promise from Turton, De Marco replied: "Oh no. There's a few things in life that are vivid and that is one of them."

Turton is expected to appear before the commission next week.

De Marco’s allegations about Chute were not a part of the eventual criminal case against the former teacher, due to statutes of limitations.

Prior to 1985 any allegation not proceeded within 12 months could not be brought. Instead DeMarco joined the civil claim. "The final thing that convinced me to join the civil claim was when the Marist lawyers were claiming that the Marist Brothers had no duty of care over their students," he said.

"I also found out around this time that Kostka had been returned to the school after my meeting with Alexis Turton despite his promise this would not happen."

The hearing continues.



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