The Marists evaded the police by sending this Brother overseas, the Royal Commission was told

By a Broken Rites researcher (article updated 7 February 2017)

The Marist Brothers headquarters in Sydney put a child-sex criminal, Brother Gregory Joseph Sutton, on a plane to Canada after learning that he was being investigated by New South Wales police, Australia's national child-abuse Royal Commission has been told. The police extradited him back to Australia, where he was jailed for sexual crimes against girls and boys in New South Wales. Questioned at the Royal Commission, senior Marists down-played Sutton's crimes as merely "improper conduct" or "moral lapses", rather than as crimes. This strategy helps to protect the Marist organisation from being sued by victims for compensation, a victim's lawyer told the Commission. This strategy can also be an attempt by senior Marists to avoid being accused of concealing a crime. Ex-Brother Sutton, who was jailed in 1996 for child-sex crimes committed in New South Wales, was convicted again on 7 February 2017 for crimes committed in the Australian Capital Territory.

Regarding the February 2017 conviction, see the final paragraphs in this article under the sub-heading "Convicted again in Canberra in 2017".

Broken Rites research has ascertained that Brother Greg Sutton (born 19 March 1951) taught primary school children, from the early 1970s until the late 1980s, in Catholic schools in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

In June 2014, the Royal Commission began holding a two-weeks public hearing (Case Study 13) which included the question of how the Marist Brothers administration responded (or failed to respond) to the crimes of Brother Gregory Sutton, plus another Marist (Brother John "Kostka" Chute).

The 2014 public hearing was told that Gregory Sutton was finally convicted in New South Wales in 1996 on 67 charges relating to his 15 of his NSW victims (but this NSW court could not deal with any of his Queensland or Canberra offences). He served 12 years of his 18-year NSW sentence behind bars and was released in 2008

The Royal Commission was told that Brother Greg Sutton's schools included:

  1. A parish school school in North Queensland, 1973-75;
  2. Marist Sacred Heart primary school, Mosman, Sydney, 1976-77;
  3. Marist Brothers primary school, Eastwood, Sydney, 1978-79;
  4. Marist College (primary section), Canberra, 1980-82;
  5. St Thomas More's primary school in Campbelltown, western Sydney, 1984-85; and
  6. St Carthage's parish primary school at Lismore, northern NSW, from 1985 to April 1987.

The Counsel Assisting the Commission, Mr Simeon Beckett, told the hearing that evidently 21 of Sutton's victims have claimed compensation from the Marist Brothers hierarchy [while other victims have remained silent].

Sutton a danger to children from Day One

Brother Greg (as pupils called him) began teaching in 1973, aged 21. Soon his colleagues raised concerns about his invasive behaviour towards children.

A former Marist Brother, Mr Denis William Doherty, told the Commission that he was working in a North Queensland parish school when Brother Greg Sutton arrived to teach there in 1973. (In this town the Marists conducted a primary school and an adjoining secondary school. The Marist Brothers lived in cottages on the campus.)

Mr Doherty, who was then aged 26 (and senior to Greg Sutton), became worried about how Sutton was acting as the children's playmate, rather than as their teacher. Sutton would have children in his classroom before the morning's official starting time. Sutton seemed to regard several of the children as his favourites and would take a child for a trip in the Marist community's car. 

Mr Doherty complained about Sutton to the local Marist Community Superior in this North Queensland town. Later, Mr Doherty he also told the Provincial leader (Brother Charles Howard) at the Marist headquarters in Sydney that “I am suspicious about Sutton. I fear he may be interfering with children.”

Later evidence indicated that the Marist leadership ignored Sutton's behaviour in the North Queensland school and merely transferered him to other schools, in New South Wales. Eventually, in 1989, after Australian police began investigating Sutton, the Marist headquarters transferred him to Canada (where it would be harder for the Australian police to nab hm).

Suicide by a North Queensland victim

Brother John Holdsworth, who was the Marist superior in this North Queensland town (in charge of the Marists in both the secondary and primary sections), told the Royal Commission that in the 1970s he was not aware of Greg Sutton's behaviour towards children.

Brother Holdsworth said he could not recall the headmaster of the primary section, Denis Doherty, raising concerns about Sutton's behaviour in 1974. 

Cross-examined in the witness box, Brother Holdsworth agreed that in 1989 he went with the father of a boy, referred to by the code-name "A.D.O.", to visit Sutton who had been moved to the Brothers' residence at St Joseph's College, Hunter's Hill, in Sydney.

A.D.O. had taken his own life [in 1989, aged 27] and his father came to see Brother Holdsworth because he had recentlly found out that his son had been sexually assaulted by Sutton when he was a child aged eight or nine back in the 1970s.

"I was quite shocked because Sutton (who was still friendly with the family) had offered to arrange the funeral,"  Brother Holdsworth said.

Brother Holdsworth said he did not attend the meeting between the father and Brother Sutton but waited for the father. He said the meeting was short and ADO's father told him that Brother Sutton admitted he had "interfered with ADO".

Counsel Assisting the Commission, Mr Simeon Beckett, asked Brother Holdsworth about whether he realised that Sutton had confessed to a criminal offence. Brother Holdsworth replied: "I can't give a specific answer as to why at the time I did not take that view."

Holdsworth also said he did recall telling Brother Alexis Turton, who was leader of the Marist order in 1989, that the boy had committed suicide but he could not remember telling him about the meeting with ADO's father.

When ADO's father later found out that the Marists had sent Gregory Sutton on a trip to Canada "for treatment", he came to Brother Holdsworth and accused the Marist Brothers of sweeping the matter "under the rug".

Crimes at Sutton's fifth school (in Sydney)

Two female victims of Brother Greg Sutton gave evidence at the public hearing. They were pupils at St Thomas More primary school in Campbelltown, near Sydney, in the mid-1980s when they were in Fifth Class, about ten years old. (This was Sutton's second Sydney school.) Sutton's assaults on these two girls were serious, including digital penetration of the vagina and also being forced to touch or kiss Brother Sutton's penis.

Five years later, when she was in Year 10 at secondary school, one of these girls finally made a police statement, which was arranged by her parents after they learned about the abuse.

Each of these two victims, now aged 40 in 2014, told the inquiry that Brother Greg Sutton's "religious" status, as a Catholic Brother, made them vulnerable to the attacks. Each of them also related how the abuse (and the church's harbouring of Brother Sutton) intimidated them.

One of the women recalled: “He [Brother Greg] used to wear this crucifix around his neck with Jesus on it."

Each of  the women told how abuse disrupted their childhood development, causing them serious personal problems in their adult years.

One of the women, referred to at hearing by the code-name "ADM", told the commission that she and her best friend were in Sutton's Grade 5 class when he befriended them and began asking them to sit on either side of his lap before eventually asking if he could "go inside" her pants.

As time went on, Sutton became more aggressive in his behaviour, asking the girls to see him before class or after hours and abusing them in the school storage room, often asking them to kiss each other and sending them back to class with a bottle of glue or paint to hide what had really occurred.

ADM recalled an occasion where Sutton took her into the storeroom, told her the best friend was "a better kisser but you are better at the other stuff", took off his Marist robe and forced her to masturbate him.

When another teacher became suspicious, Sutton warned the girl that "we have to be more careful" and when her parents asked her why her teacher wanted to see her of a weekend, ADM lied and said it was because she and her friend - known to the commission as ADQ - were in trouble.

"My parents were so angry at me...at the time I knew what Brother Greg was doing to me was wrong but I felt I couldn't tell mum and dad because it shouldn't have been happening" she said. "I thought that I would be the one that got into trouble".

In her submission to the royal commission, the other woman (code-name "ADQ") said Sutton had gone as far as to warn on many occasions - including a time when he forced her get on the ground as he removed his pants and said "kiss it" - that "if someone sees us, I will kill your parents and brother and sister and then you will have no one to love".

"What he said was enough to scare me from telling anyone (other than "ADM") about what he was doing to me...I was only 10 and I believed he would kill my parents if I told them," she said

"To this day, I still find it hard to talk about."

One morning, before class had started, Sutton told ADM "I'm leaving and going to Lismore at the end of the year".

When she asked "are you going to do it to anyone there?", Sutton replied "I'm not sure".

The Royal Commission was told that these two girls from the Campbelltown school eventually had interviews with NSW Police detectives, arranged by their parents. Their written statements were signed in early August 1989. Word of this got back to the Marist head office in Sydney, which then immediately put Brother Greg Sutton on a plane to Canada before the New South Wales police had time to interview him.

Offences in Lismore, NSW

After abusing children at the Campbelltown school, Sutton continued to abuse children at his sixth school -  St Carthage's primary school, in Lismore, northern NSW, where he spent 1985, 1986 and part of 1987.

Mr Beckett, the counsel assisting the commission, said the hearing would examine whether relevant complaints of abuse at several of Sutton's early schools in the 1970s (such as the North Queensland one) were passed to the Lismore school in the 1980s.

At St Carthage's, the assistant principal (Jan O'Grady) soon became concerned about some of Brother Greg Sutton's practices.

Ms O'Grady said in evidence:

"The blinds [in his classroom] were drawn. It struck me as a very closed classroom.The door was often closed too. It was very closed in and very dark. I thought it was very strange; I had never seen that before in a classroom."

Ms O'Grady said she had seen Sutton chasing two young girls around his classroom before catching and hugging one of them.

Ms O'Grady said that, after Brother Greg took an afternoon off school, she became suspicious and eventually looked in his school diary which he kept on his desk. A diary entry for that day said:

“Picked up [girl's name]. What an afternoon. She is magnificent."

His entry for the following day said: “I had a fight with [same girl] and we made up.”

[The Commission has been told that this girl was aged 10 or 11.]

Ms O’Grady said she had no evidence that Brother Greg had been having sex with the girl, although she thought “maybe”.

"I concluded he had acted absolutely inappropriately for a teacher in our school by picking up a child and spending the rest of the day with her," Ms O'Grady said.

She did not report her suspicions to police. Instead she handed over all the information to the Catholic Education Office of the Lismore diocese (this office has oversight over all parish schools in the Lismore diocese, which covers covers the NSW north coast, extending from Port Macquarie to the Queensland border).

Ms O'Grady said that, when she rang the Catholic Education Office, they suggested that Brother Sutton take a month off and then return to the school. She said she was furious and almost hysterical and contacted the then former director of the Catholic Education for the Diocese of Lismore, John Kelly, and it was only then that Bother Sutton was removed from the school.

More about the Lismore school

The counsel assisting the commission, Mr Simeon Beckett, told the hearing that St Carthage's school was operated by the Lismore Catholic Education Office for the Diocese of Lismore, and the principal was a Presentation Sister, Sister Julia O’Sullivan. Three ex-pupils (code-named ACT, ADB and ACV) have alleged that they were sexually abused by Brother Sutton in 1985. ACT’s mother complained to a teacher at the school that her daughter had been touched on the upper thigh by Brother Sutton. The complaint was referred to Sister Julia. Other teachers had concerns about Brother Sutton and favouritism shown to certain students.

Mr Beckett told the Commisision:

"The then Vice-Provincial of the Marist Brothers, Brother Alexis Turton [at the Marist headquarters in Sydney], visited St Carthage’s and investigated the concerns expressed to him. The public hearing will explore what Brother Turton was told and what action he took with respect to Brother Sutton.

"Brother Sutton remained at the school and the evidence is likely to reveal that in December of that year [1985] the executive of the school sought assurances from Brother Sutton including that he not be in a classroom with any children out of school hours.

"In February 1986 Brother Turton returned to St Carthage’s and, together with the principal, had Brother Sutton sign a letter of undertaking about his behaviour..."

Mr Beckett said the hearing is exploring what action, if any, was taken by the school and the Marist Brothers about such apparent breaches at St Carthage's. 

He said that Brother Sutton's convictions in 1996 included the offence of performing an act of indecency on a boy (code-named "ACZ") in 1986 at St Carthage’s when he was 10 or 11 years old.

In November and December of 1986 Brother Sutton went on a ‘personal renewal’ course to New Zealand. He returned to teach at St Carthage’s in 1987.
 
Mr Beckett told the hearing that on 30 April 1987 Brother Sutton was removed from St Carthage’s by the Marist Provincial leader who placed him in an administrative role in the Marist office at Drummoyne, Sydney.

Evidence available from the criminal trial of Brother Sutton reveals the true extent of his offending against [pupil] ACU. Brother Sutton pleaded guilty to 5 counts of sexual intercourse being digitally penetrating ACU’s vagina and 3 counts of assault with an act of indecency being touching ACU’s vagina or forcing her to touch his penis. ACU was ten or eleven years old at the time. The majority of the acts occurred well before he was removed at the end of April 1987.

Mr Beckett said that in 1989 Brother Sutton was sent to Canada. In Australia, 14 warrants were issued for his arrest in 1992 and a further 10 in 1993. However, Brother Sutton continued in Canada until 1992 and then from 1994-1996 became a headmaster at a school in St Louis, Missouri, in the USA. Extradition proceedings were commenced and Sutton returned to Australia.

Mr Beckett said: "The hearing will explore what assistance, if any, was provided by the Marist Brothers to the NSW Police in seeking his extradition."

On 8 November 1996 Sutton pleaded guilty to 67 charges of child sexual assault and was sentenced in the District Court, Sydney, to 18 years imprisonment, with a 12 year non-parole period. Sutton has completed his term of imprisonment and lives in the community.

Mr Beckett said that the public hearing is examining what was known about allegations of child sexual abuse or other indicative conduct concerning Brother Sutton at the points at which he was transferred between each of the relevant schools and whether those allegations were the reasons for all, some or none of the transfers.

Convicted again in Canberra in 2017

In early 2016, Gregory Sutton appeared in court in Canberra, charged with child-sex offences committed while he was teaching at Marist College in the Australian Capital Territory in the early 1980s. Sutton faced three charges of indecent assault on a male. These charges were laid under A.C.T. law. Sutton indicated that he wouid try to evade a trial on the A.C.T. charges because he had already served a jail term under New South Wales law.

On 9 August 2016, the A.C.T. Magistrates Court committed Gregory Joseph Sutton to stand trial, on a future date, in the A.C.T Supreme Court.

In the A.C.T. Supreme Court on 7 February 2017, Gregory Sutton, 65, pleaded guilty to the offences.

In a statement read to the court, one of the victims outlined the harm the abuse did to his life and the impact it had on his relationship with his own children.

In a written impact statement submitted to the court, one of those men reflected on the lost innocence, shattered trust and lifetime of hurt caused by the abuse.

"You preyed on my curiosity and took advantage of my trust," the victim wrote.

"As a child, I did not know any better, I did not know you were an imposter, preying on the vulnerable and grooming people like me for your own satisfaction.

"Like many other communities you would hurt us and move on, leaving a trail of silent destruction, never getting caught as we were too young to understand what damage you had caused."

The victim said Sutton's actions pushed him away from his mother and father, confused his understanding of sexuality and relationships, and destroyed his confidence in parenting his children.

Sutton said in court he understood he had been a in a position of power over his young victims, and that he used the children for his own sexual gratification.

"I accept that unreservedly and I live with that every day," he said.

Sutton acknowledged that his offending caused victims' great trauma, betrayed their trust and had a ripple effect on them, their families and children, the school and the church.

"I accept that unreservedly and I live with that every day," he said.

In sentencing, Justice John Burns said Sutton's offences were "a gross breach of trust" that had a long-term effect on his victims and their families.

Taking into account Sutton's previous time behind bars in New South Wales, the A.C.T. court convicted Sutton for his A.C.T. offences and imposed a suspended sentence of two years and two months.