Former Marist brother confesses he did not link child sex abuse with crime

The Guardian (UK)
June 17, 2014

Commissioner Jennifer Coate: 'Is that a serious answer to the royal commission, brother?'

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

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.

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

On Tuesday 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.

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 paedophile at the time.

Presiding commissioner, justice Jennifer Coate, asked: “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?”

Hunt said: “I would have to say that's correct at the time.”

Coate asked 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?” she asked.

Coate asked 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,” Hunt said.

Coate asked: “Is that a serious answer to the royal commission, brother?”

Hunt said it was the best he could do with his understanding at the time.

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.

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


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