Former Sydney archbishop accused of failing to act in abuse case


A suit filed in the New South Wales Supreme Court accuses the former archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev. Harry Goodhew, of failing to act after he was informed a leader of the Church of England Boys’ Society (CEBS) was abusing boys. 

The July pleading, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, alleges in the 1980s when he was archdeacon of Wollongong and then Bishop of Wollongong, Archbishop Goodhew took no action to stop further offending by a CEBS leader, William “Adrian” Richmond Sandwell.

The complainant, Alexander Hughes, seeks damages from the Anglican Church Property Trust Diocese of Sydney. In 2019 Sandwell was convicted of abusing six boys between 1965 and 1986 – including Hughes. Sandwell has served almost four years in prison for his crimes and is eligable for parole this month. Hughes alleges Goodhew was informed in 1982 about Sandwell’s crimes but took no action.

In its response, the diocese denied Archbishop Goodhew had been informed of Sandwell’s crimes and disputed the factual assertions made in the complaint.

In a statement given to the Sydney Morning Herald, a diocesan spokesman said it could not comment on the issues under active litigation, but noted:

“We fully support the Royal Commission’s work on historical abuse cases and the consequent recommendations to ensure child safety. We are also committed to engaging constructively with survivors of abuse regardless of the way in which they bring their claim.”

In its Case Study 36, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse inquired into the response of the CEBS and the Dioceses of Tasmania, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane to allegations of child sexual abuse. Its 2017 report the Commission explained the CEBS was an adjunct organisation to the Anglican Church of Australia and had been “established to help boys between six and 16 years of age to develop spiritually, mentally, physically and socially.”

In the 1990s and 2000s a number of people involved with CEBS in the Dioceses of Tasmania, Sydney and Brisbane were convicted of child sexual abuse offences. Three clergy and a lay leader were jailed for abuse, while a second lay leader took his life before trial. Sandwell was not among those named in the report.  The Commission’s report looked at the responses by the dioceses and CEBS to the abuse and discussed whether there was a culture within CEBS that facilitated offending.

The allegation of failing to act in Hayes’ lawsuit came after Goodhew told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2016 that – apart from a high-profile abuse case involving a former senior Newcastle church leader in the mid-1990s In testimony before the Commission in 2016, Archbishop Goodhew said he had “never been reticent to take matters of this nature forward when I thought that I could”. His remarks came in response to questions about the former dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence, who in 2019 was convicted of raping a 15-year old boy in 1991. Lawrence is currently serving an eight year term of imprisonment for his crime. 

Archbishop Goodhew told the Commission he had not the power to discipline Lawrence as jurisdiction rested with the bishop of Newcastle, where the crime took place and where Lawrence was canonically resident.

The case continues.