Despite sacking paedophile, Catholics made no police report

FORMER Lismore Catholic Education Office Director John Kelly has told the royal commission it never occurred to him that a rogue teacher who repeatedly ignored warnings not to touch children, "may" have been a paedophile.

Startling evidence in yesterday's hearing revealed that even after the now convicted sex offender Gregory Sutton was sacked from St Carthage's in 1987, "grave concerns" about child abuse were not reported to the police or the student's parents.

Mr Kelly told the commission that the first time he had heard that a report about Sutton had ever been made to the Department of Community Services, was yesterday morning.

Former St Carthages Assistant Principal Jan O'Grady previously told the commission about her two-year-campaign to have Sutton removed from school.

She said she repeatedly went to school authorities and the Marist Brothers Provincial to complain about her colleague's "over-familiar" way of dealing with Year 6 girls, the fact that the blinds in his classroom were always down and in particular, about the day she had witnessed Sutton chasing a girl around his class room before grabbing and hugging her.

In 1986, the school's principal, Sister Julia, raised concerns with Mr Kelly about Sutton's clear favouritism towards a group of girls and other "industrial issues".

Mr Kelly said at the time he regarded the behaviour as "poor teaching" but not predatory and advised the sister to write a letter of warning to Sutton.

By the time Ms O'Grady was given a one on one meeting with Mr Kelly in 1987, she and several parents were deeply concerned about Sutton's relationship with his "favourite" student - a 10-year-old girl who can only be referred to as ACN.

It had become known that Sutton had taken the girl for a drive after lying to her parents about who would be there and at a time when she should have been at a school camp.

Ms O'Grady discovered Sutton had written about the afternoon in his school diary, describing the girl as "magnificent" and exclaiming "what an afternoon!"

Sutton was eventually removed from the school but Mr Kelly insisted he did not know why - that it was up to the provincial and he had not been told.

Asked whether he honestly didn't suspect that ACN had been sexually abused, Mr Kelly said had just assumed the drive was part of his "whole business of giving people special credits (and because) this one was particularly his favourite…he wanted to be popular and admired".

He rejected Counsel Assisting's suggestion that he must have suspected Sutton of criminal behaviour and said he did not go to the police or the parents as he did not have enough evidence and believed it was up to the provincial or the school to take it further. 

He said that he would not have recognised the behaviour at the time because he "had never met a paedophile before"  but later conceded that in hindsight, he wished he had been "more aware".

When pressed about whether he was aware that Sutton had since pleaded guilty and served jail time over the sexual assault of ACN, Mr Kelly replied "I think I read that in the papers".

The hearing resumes this morning.


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