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Newcastle dean loses abuse appeal: The Church of England Newspaper, May 6, 2012 p 7. May 14, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Abuse, Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Dean Graeme Lawrence

The New South Wales Supreme has upheld the legality of the Anglican Church of Australia’s clergy disciplinary canons, dismissing a challenge brought by two clergymen disciplined by the Diocese of Newcastle’s Professional Standards Board.

Justice John Sackar held the civil courts did not have the authority to intervene in the church’s internal deliberations by issuing an order granting a permanent stay on the proceedings of the standards board, as the standards board was not a statutory tribunal subject to government oversight.  His 27 April 2012 decision did not address the merits of the charges of abuse brought before the standards board, but held the board’s proceedings had not been arbitrary or capricious.

On 10 December 2010 the standards board held that Dean Lawrence and his partner, church organist Gregory Goyette, had engaged in sexual relations with a 17 year old boy at a church camp in 1984.  Mr. Sturt was found to have observed the incident, but did not report the abuse.

The two clergymen denied all charges, but did not cooperate with the tribunal.  The board recommended Dean Lawrence and Mr. Sturt be defrocked and Mr. Goyette prevented from working in the church.  The two clergyman responded by filing suit against the board, saying its proceedings were arbitrary and capricious. .

Last year the court permitted Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane to be joined as an additional defendant in the lawsuit.  On 10 May 2011, Dr. Aspinall said an adverse ruling had the potential to force the church to re-write its clergy disciplinary code in order to comply with civil law.

The court found that the allegations of misconduct “if true or untrue” had “no doubt been distressing and potentially damaging” to Dean Lawrence and Mr. Sturt. And, “there also is no doubt that these events have arguably impacted upon the reputation of the Anglican Church of Australia.”

But the court’s 135 page decision found the standards board proceedings had not been biased.  In a statement released after the decision, the Bishop of Newcastle, Dr. Brian Farran, said he was pleased with the ruling, noting the standards board “must take all allegations of sexual abuse seriously; this is in line with public expectations.”

“I hope all those directly or indirectly concerned with the litigation remain calm and prayerfully consider the effect of the judgment on the Diocese, the clergy concerned and others,” the bishop said.

Dean Lawrence and Mr. Sturt have not commented publicly on the ruling and are understood to be reviewing the decision.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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