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Archbishop denies clergyman intimidation

AAP logoAAP 28/08/2016 By Rebekah Ison

The Anglican Archbishop of Perth denies he was intimidated by a former senior clergyman accused of child sex abuse, with whom he had three conversations that he cannot remember.

Archbishop Roger Herft, who was in charge of the Newcastle diocese until 2005, on Monday conceded documents indicate he spoke to former Dean Graeme Lawrence about allegations over numerous years.

But he has told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he has no recollection of the conversations and is concerned by the fact that the appropriate file notes don’t seem to have been made.

He denied trying to protect Mr Lawrence, who has since been defrocked.

“Are you intimidated by Graeme Lawrence?” counsel assisting the commission Naomi Sharp asked.

“I'm not intimidated by Graeme Lawrence,” Archbishop Herft replied.

Archbishop Herft told the public hearing in Newcastle he had placed great trust in Mr Lawrence and accepted his denials against the allegations even years after they first surfaced.

"It could be said … that by 1999 the allegations were no longer a whisper and were now a roar?” Ms Sharp said.

“That is not the way I understood it, Ma'am.”

In a 2010 letter to the diocese's professional standards director Archbishop Herft wrote that it was “inconceivable” no action would have been taken in response to the allegations because Mr Lawrence was the chaplain of Newcastle Grammar School.

The action taken was "to inquire of Graeme Lawrence" he told the commission.

The hearing continues.

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