Marist Brothers head tipped off child-sex teacher about police inquiry, commission told

By Paul Bibby
Sydney Morning Herald
July 1, 2014

Former Marist Brothers school teacher and convicted paedophile Gregory Sutton appears at the royal commission on child sex abuse.

As police sought to bring a Catholic brother living overseas back to Australia to face 67 charges of child sexual abuse, the Australian head of the Marist Brothers told him to "stay over there and enjoy your new life", the royal commission has heard.

In testimony before the commission on Tuesday, convicted paedophile Gregory Sutton set out allegations of a blatant and extended cover-up orchestrated by Brother Alexis Turton, head of the Marist Brothers in the late 1980s and early '90s.

Sutton, who taught at numerous Marist Brothers schools, told the commission that, in August 1989, he was called in for a meeting with then head (or provincial) of the Marist Brothers in Australia, Brother Turton, and told that he was being investigated by police over his abuse of children at a school in Campbelltown.

Within four days of that meeting, Sutton said, he was put on a plane to the US. He then travelled to Canada for an "assessment" and "treatment" for his behaviour, at a Catholic Church institution known as Southdown.

"Was this the first time you had heard that such an investigation was under way?" counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, SC, asked Sutton.

"Yes," he replied.

The commission heard that Sutton continued to live in the US after his "treatment" in Canada, taking up a job as an administrative officer at a grade school in the city of St Louis.

Sutton said that, in 1992, Brother Turton rang him in St Louis and told him a warrant had been issued for his arrest by a court in Lismore.

"He said 'stay over there and live your life'," Sutton said.

The hearing was told that Sutton was transferred from school to school in the 1970s and '80s, a strategy that the Marist Brothers had previously used when a brother was suspected or accused of abusing children.

All told, 21 of Sutton’s former students made complaints to the order about the abuse they had suffered, 18 of whom received a financial payment.

One went through the church’s "Towards Healing" scheme and received $25,000 while the remainder negotiated out of court settlements averaging just over $105,000.

Later in the hearing, the present head of the Marist Brothers in Australia, Brother Jeffrey Crowe, was asked how another paedophile brother, Kostka Chute, was able to get away after abusing dozens of children.

"The man was obviously a master of secrecy in terms of his activities," Brother Crowe said.

"The biggest reason would have been the trust which was normal between brothers. That would be the normal attitude that one brother had towards another.

"There’s a question there of dishonesty on his side – of not being clear about his difficulties."

The commission heard that a council on which Brother Crowe was a member had agreed to "play hard ball" with one of Chute’s victims, while others were made to sign a deed of release.

Chute remained a brother with no attempts made to remove his title.




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