Anglican priests defrocked over abuse claims

ABC News, Australia/September 11, 2012

Newcastle's Anglican Bishop Brian Farran has defrocked three priests over child sex allegations, including a member of the upper echelons of the church.

Bishop Farran has acted on an Anglican Professional Standards Board recommendation to defrock the revered former dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence, along with reverends Bruce Hoare and Andrew Duncan.

The board found there was misconduct in relation to several sexual allegations.

Bishop Farran announced the defrockings to the ABC.

"There will be people in Newcastle who will be extraordinarily angry with me, but unfortunately the processes must be followed," he said.

Bishop Farran fought back tears as he explained his decision.

"The Professional Standards Board considered some very disturbing material and determined that some of the respondents engaged in sexual misconduct, including misconduct when the complainant was a child," he said.

Another priest, Reverend Graeme Sturt, received an order banning him from exercising any ministry for five years.

A former church worker has also been prevented from holding any lay office in the church.


The priests have previously denied all the allegations.

None of the five men gave evidence to the professional standards hearing and no criminal charges were laid.

The matter has been referred to the police for reinvestigation.

Bishop Farran says he felt compelled to act, acknowledging calls for a royal commission into clergy abuse.

"I think there should be an open inquiry, absolutely, I think in order for the church to have a sense of regaining its credibility within the community."

But Former Newcastle mayor John McNaughton, who has been a lay assistant with the church for 60 years and a strong supporter of the former dean, says it is a disgraceful outcome.

"And it's been disgraceful the whole way through," he said.

"I think they can't make a priest not a priest, and the people who look to Father Graeme Lawrence for their counselling and religious instruction and so on will continue to do so, myself included."

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