A former Anglican altar boy has told a royal commission of four years of abuse at the hands of a priest code-named CKC. A trial against the priest was discontinued soon after it started and the 55-year-old former altar-boy – given the pseudonym CKA – told how his family suffered abuse and death threats as a result of him taking action against CKC.
He said an elderly woman from the church spat on him and said he was “nothing but a troublemaker”.
He said he had nails put in his tyres and could have died when he realised the car he was driving felt funny and he pulled over to find all of its rear wheel nuts had been loosened.
CKA named the person he believed responsible, a prominent lay figure in the Newcastle Anglican church.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard the abuse took place between 1971 and 1975. It began with fondling and escalated over time until the priest was having anal intercourse with him regularly, he said.
CKA said he was 10 when the abuse began and CKC was about 30 years of age.
The commission heard the case was dropped after the defence produced a church diary that showed CKC could not have been where the prosecution said he was at the time of an offence being tried.
The commission heard there was now “considerable doubt” over the veracity of the diary – which was brought to the court by Anglican registrar Peter Mitchell, who was subsequently convicted on a fraud matter relating to church finances.
There was debate about why CKC was still being given a pseudonym.
Ian Temby, QC, appearing for the state, said there was likely to be a retrial in the next year or so and that to publish the priest’s name might “interfere” with a jury trial or increase his chances of getting a permanent stay of proceedings.
Reading from his witness statement, CKA recounted how CKC groomed him and his younger brother – code-named CKL – who was also abused.
After four years of abuse he was pleased to learn that CKC had been moved to another church in 1975 but then CKC came to his mother and asked for him and his brother to help CKC at his new church.
About this time, CKA said he told his mother – both his parents were heavily involved in the church at the time – that CKC had been abusing him.
He said his mother had promised to “go to the bishop” but nothing happened and he did not follow it up at the time.
He said his mother died suddenly in 1977 and CKA was horrified that the church had allowed CKC to officiate at the funeral, because by this stage he believed his mother had told the church authorities about him.
He said he had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalised for six weeks when he was 20 years old.
He said when he finally complained again about CKC in 1996, he rang the church’s confidential help line, where the person who answered the phone was Dean Graeme Lawrence.
He said he had no idea about Lawrence or that he was a friend of CKC’s.
He said he approached the help line again in 1999 and again Dean Lawrence took the call.
He said he eventually reported CKC to the police in February 2000.
“I don’t expect lay people to understand the power of the church and the fear this instilled in me about speaking out against its clergy,” CKA said.
He said he was “ashamed and embarrassed” and only reported the final incident of what had been four years of abuse.
“I thought it would be enough, but I was wrong,” CKA said.
He said the church supported CKC during his trial in Newcastle, while he and his family felt ostracised.
He said the church only made progress after business manager John Cleary and the director of professional standards, Michael Elliott, were appointed.
“Unfortunately for John, he was still stuck with the same – I use the term – mob of crooks above him,” CKA said.
He said he received two payments, the first of $35,000 and a second of $75,000.
“It [the $75,000] might be the maximum, but it’s a joke,” CKA said.
He said nothing could have compensated him for what he could have become had CKC not abused him.
“I can’t get over the frustration of dealing with bishops and clergy who I believe knew full well what CKC was doing and yet did nothing,” CKA said.