Gregory Sutton. Royal Commission.
Gregory Sutton. Royal Commission. The Northern Star Archives

Teacher who suspected Brother Sutton's child abuse ignored

A TORMENTED teacher has revealed senior members of the Marist Brothers and the Lismore Catholic Education Office ignored her repeated warnings to oust a man who would one day be exposed as one of the worst paedophiles in NSW.

From almost the beginning Jan O'Grady suspected her new colleague, Brother Gregory Sutton, was a poison to St Carthages Primary School, but despite her best efforts, there was nothing she could do about it.

It would be several years until she had gathered enough evidence - a sickening diary entry describing an encounter with a "magnificent" 10-year-old girl and a photo album of students he called his "special children" were just the start - before Sutton was forced out.

The retired, former assistant principal has told the child abuse royal commission she first became concerned in 1985 when she saw the same group of about five of six children hanging about Sutton in the playground and frequently going into the store room with him to apparently collect sporting equipment.

She described the dynamic as more of a "parent/child" than teacher/student relationship.

The woman went to the then principal Sister Julia to express her concerns about Sutton's "over familiar" behaviour and the fact that the blinds and windows in his classroom were always closed.

In the first term, Ms O'Grady discovered the parent of a girl had complained that Sutton had touched their daughter's breast.

She told the commission Sister Julia had said it was "just a misunderstanding" but she was "really angry" because Sutton had apparently told the girl "you're not my friend anymore".

During a later meeting with Sister Julia and a visiting brother, Ms O'Grady said she was worried Sutton was "singling out" a group of children that he favoured to which the brother replied "that's what he did at the last school he was at".

Ms O'Grady recalled feeling deflated and angry that the "brothers knew Brother Gregory was a problem but sent him to our school anyway".

By term three, former head of the Lismore Provincial Brother Anthony Hunt had been called in to meet with the school executive and Brother Gregory to discuss his "difficulties".

Feelings of unease turned to panic when Ms O'Grady followed the sounds of giggling to find Sutton was chasing a girl around the room, catching her and tickling her.

The only other girl in the room had her "dress bunched up" around the top of her legs.

Ms O'Grady's campaign to have Sutton sacked peaked when she found a note in his diary which read "picked up (name withheld)...what an afternoon. She is magnificent".

After several more meetings, Ms O'Grady felt as though Mr Hunt was only interested in taking a "pastoral approach" with Sutton so she went to Catholic Education Office Director John Kelly.

She said that a brother who worked for the CEO told her "we think that it will be good for him to take a month off and then come back" and that Sutton only left after she threatened to "go to the papers".

She also said that as far as she was aware, her allegations were never referred to authorities and that when she told Mr Kelly she wanted to hold a meeting with the parents of Sutton's Year 6 students to explain what had occurred, she was advised against it.

Sutton was eventually convicted of 67 child sex abuse offences.

Mr Kelly is expected to give evidence before the commission next Tuesday.

The hearing, which resumes on Monday, is also examining whether Lismore officials informed the police or the education department that another predator priest, Brother John "Kostka" Chute, had admitted abuse at St Joseph's and received a canonical warning before he was recommended for a job at Canberra's prestigious Marist Brothers College.

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