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Archbishop thought 'abuser' had repented

AAP logoAAP 29/08/2016 By Rebekah Ison

The Anglican archbishop of Perth has conceded he should have done more amid allegations a senior NSW clergyman, who had formerly been investigated for child porn, had his "own group of boys".

Archbishop Roger Herft, who was head of the Newcastle Diocese between 1993 and 2005, was alerted to a child sex complaint relating to four men in 2003.

One of the men was senior priest Peter Rushton, who was accused of abusing another priest's son around the same time and had come to the archbishop's attention when removalists thought they found child pornography at his house five years prior.

Archbishop Herft on Monday told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that he was "deeply fooled" by Rushton, who he thought had "changed" after the pornography matter.

"Deep in my heart I felt he had repented," he said.

"Given the nature of what I now know ... I would not only have been alert but alarm bells (would have been) ringing to see that he was brought to the attention of the police."

Rushton, who the removalists later said had only been in possession of adult porn, is also said to have been at the heart of a pedophile ring of clergy and lay church workers who preyed on children at St Alban's, a boy's home at Cessnock.

He died in 2007 without ever facing child sex abuse charges but the diocese acknowledges he was an offender.

The commission has heard the details of dozens of "yellow envelopes" created in response to complaints of child abuse within the diocese.

Archbishop Herft said he couldn't explain why an envelope wasn't created for former Newcastle Cathedral dean, archbishop Graeme Lawrence, who was accused of child sex offences numerous times.

He accepted documents shown to the commission indicated he had spoken to Lawrence three times about abuse allegations over a four-year period.

But he has no recollection of the conversations.

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

"I'm not intimidated by Graeme Lawrence," Archbishop Herft said, after also denying trying to protect the now-defrocked priest.

The commission also heard another alleged priest offender, known as CKC, was represented in court by the diocese's deputy chancellor at the time, Paul Rosser QC.

Archbishop Herft told the commission he and the church had failed CKC's alleged victim CKA "miserably" by allowing Rosser to be involved in the case and not providing adequate pastoral care to the victim.

CKC's original trial was halted but the commission has heard he may face a retrial.

Archbishop Herft said he became more sensitive to the need to report child sex abuse allegations to police as his tenure went on.

He is expected to continue giving evidence on Tuesday.

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