Abuse trial of Newcastle dean starts Monday

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The Bishop of Newcastle (Australia) has written to the clergy of his diocese warning that testimony in the forthcoming trial of the former dean will reopen the wounds left by the revelation of the of the 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Rt. Rev. Peter Stuart said he expected that revelations from the 17 June 2019 trial of Graeme Lawrence would upset those who had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of clergy and church workers in the diocese.

Last month Judge Roy Ellis said he expected the trial would take ten days and 28 witnesses were expected to testify.

On 10 September 2012 Newcastle Bishop Brian Farran announced he had accepted the recommendation of the diocesan Professional Standards Board and removed Dean Lawrence, the Rev. Bruce Hoare and the Rev. Andrew Duncan from the ministry while cathedral organist (and Dean Lawrence’s partner) Gregory Goyette was banned from working in Anglican churches.

“There will be people in Newcastle who will be extraordinarily angry with me, but unfortunately the processes must be followed,” Bishop Farran told the ABC. “The Professional Standards Board considered some very disturbing material and determined that some of the respondents engaged in sexual misconduct, including misconduct when the complainant was a child,” he said.

The accused had been brought up on charges before the Professional Standards Board for sexual abuse and misconduct and on 15 Dec 2010 the board found that Dean Lawrence and Mr. Goyette had engaged in sexual relations with a 17 year old man at a church camp in 1984, Lawrence, who served as Dean of Newcastle for 25 years until his retirement in 2008, was a member of the Anglican Church of Australia General Synod Standing Committee task force that in 2003 created the recommendations for the current professional standards proceedings.

The 2003 Sexual Abuse Working Group recommended that the church change clergy disciplinary proceedings from an adversarial procedure involving a prosecution for an offence before a tribunal, to panel review process that looked at the fitness of the church worker to hold office.  The Standing Committee subsequently accepted these recommendations, which were subsequently adopted by the 2004 General Synod.

Lawrence was arrested in 2017 following a referral from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for allegedly indecently and sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in the Hunter in 1991.

He was charged in 2017 with aggravated indecent assault on a victim under the age of 16 and aggravated sexual assault. He has denied the charges.