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Abuse claims incorrect: ex-NSW priest

AAP logoAAP 18/11/2016 Miranda Forster

Former Anglican dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence says allegations he sexually abused children are "incorrect", and denies ever being asked about them by senior clergy despite documents that suggest he was.

Lawrence, now defrocked, appeared at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on Friday.

He was taken to a 1995 letter from then-Bishop of Newcastle Roger Herft to youth camp leader Robert Wall, who has made a statement to the commission that two boys told him Lawrence sexually interfered with them.

"Mr Wall is absolutely incorrect," Lawrence said of the statement, and maintained he'd never been to a youth camp.

In the 1995 letter, Bishop Herft told Mr Wall he had spoken to the priest at the centre of the allegations, and the priest said he was "not aware of any indiscretion".

But Lawrence said Bishop Herft had never raised the allegations with him.

"The priest with whom he raised it was not me," he said.

Lawrence was then taken to a 1996 letter in which the Reverend Brian Kelly told then Sydney Archbishop Harry Goodhew he'd been informed by a member of the church that Lawrence had "engaged in sexual activity with young boys".

"It's totally incorrect," Lawrence said.

"Have you ever been made aware of this allegation?" counsel assisting the royal commission Naomi Sharp asked him

"Only when I saw it in the bundle (of evidence at the commission)," he replied.

Lawrence was taken to a 1997 file note apparently made by Archbishop Goodhew after a conversation with Mr Kelly.

"Bishop has already talked with GRL, who has denied any wrongdoing in the past", the note said.

Lawrence once again denied that Bishop Herft had ever spoken with him about the allegations.

"Is that answer the truth, Mr Lawrence?" Ms Sharp asked.

"It is absolutely the truth," he replied.

Lawrence also denied knowledge that there were child sexual abuse allegations against any other priests in his diocese, with the exception of a priest who has been given the pseudonym of CKC.

The commission heard a man contacted Lawrence in 1996 with allegations he'd been sexually abused as a child by CKC.

Lawrence told the inquiry he guessed who the priest in question was but didn't take any action against him after the complainant failed to show up to an appointment.

Ms Sharp asked whether there had still been a need to follow up the complaint, given the priest was still ministering in another diocese.

Lawrence said it was not his responsibility.

"My thinking would have been that ... I had passed on the information to the bishop, and it was his responsibility to do any follow-up ... not me," he said.

Lawrence is due to return to the commission next week.

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