Marist Brother told his superiors Gregory Sutton was a child molester

By David Ellery
Canberra Times
June 16, 2014

Former Marist Brother Denis Doherty gives evidence about convicted molester Gregory Sutton at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

A former Marist Brother told his superiors Gregorý Sutton was a possible child molester decades before his crimes were exposed.

Denis Doherty told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Monday he had been told to "mind your own business" in 1976 when he asked what was being done about the now disgraced former Marist Brother.

Mr Doherty said he had been very upset to learn Sutton had been charged with numerous counts of sex abuse in 1993.

"I was extremely angry that I had told the brothers in the 1970s and they did nothing and Greg went on to do some of the most dreadful things," he said in response to questions from Simeon Beckett, the counsel assisting the commission.

Mr Doherty said he first met Sutton in 1973 when he arrived at the north Queensland school where he was teaching.

The school had a small and tight-knit community of five brothers who lived in close proximity to each other.

Mr Doherty originally thought Sutton to be enthusiastic and dedicated, traits not uncommon in teachers in the early years of their careers.

Over time the relationship between the two men soured and Mr Doherty began to suspect Sutton was acting inappropriately and possibly abusing children.

Mr Doherty said he entered Sutton's classrooom unexpectedly at 7.30 one morning and found him wrestling with three students.

"He saw me and went red in the face with embarrassment," he said.

"He frequently went red in the face."

Mr Doherty said he was also concerned at Sutton's practice of mowing the lawn on a ride-on mower with a student, identified as ADL, perched between his legs.

"It was verging on the scandalous, there is no need to be that close to a student, a person walking by would see that as odd, uncalled for," he said.

"We didn't use the word paedophilia [then], we used the word 'interference' but that was what we laid ourselves open to."

Mr Doherty said he told the senior brother, John Holdsworth, of his concerns in 1974.

"I told Brother John I believed Greg was involved in serious petting [having teachers pets] and [about] the wrestling and the mower," he said.

"Brother John appeared to shift uneasily in his seat and seemed perplexed.

"I got the impression he didn't share my concerns."

Mr Doherty told the commission he had never seen any evidence Brother John had acted on the concerns he raised.

In 1975, during a one-on-one meeting with the then-provincial, Brother Charles Howard, he tried again.

"I told him 'I am suspicious about Greg, I fear that he might be interfering with children'. I mentioned the wrestling incident," Mr Doherty said.

"At the end of the visit Brother Charles said to me words to the effect 'it sounds serious, we will move him [Sutton] to Sydney for counselling."

In an interview in 2003, with the then-Provincial Brother Alexis Turton, Brother Charles Howard denied this.

"Charles [Howard] was quite sure that there had been no reference to any question of abuse regarding the move with Gregory Sutton," Turton wrote in a diary note after the interview.

"Charles was aware that GS [Sutton] and Denis Doherty did not enjoy a good relationship.

"What made the issue a more difficult one was that DD [Denis Doherty] himself was regarded as an angry young man and not always reliable.

"He was given to outbursts."

Mr Doherty described the comments as unfair.

The commission was shown a letter from Brother Howard to Mr Doherty dated August 15, 1975, in which he said: "don't worry too much about the Greg situation - we will be able to handle that for next year."

The following year Mr Doherty met Brother Howard again.

"I asked 'what have you done about Greg?'," Mr Doherty said.

"'None of your business,' he [Howard] replied."

Mr Doherty said he was angered by the response.

"I felt let down, I regret now I did not contact the new person who would be in charge of Greg and let them know my concerns," he said.




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