86 child sex offences after Marist Brothers ignored fears

IT'S unknown how many of the combined 86 convicted child sexual offences committed by former Lismore Marist Brother primary school teachers Gregory Sutton and John "Kostka" Chute could have been prevented had the organisation communicated and acted on allegations.

Current Marist Brothers Provincial Brother Crowe admitted to the Royal Commission that failures of communication and of action had "tragic results" and the facts were "horrendous and inexcusable".

In 1996, Sutton plead guilty to 67 child sexual offences against 15 students at a number of schools in Queensland, NSW and the ACT.

Years before Sutton ever set foot on the grounds of St Carthage's Primary School in Lismore, concerns were held about his conduct and behaviour towards students.

The head of a North Queensland primary school where Sutton first took up teaching in 1973 told the Royal Commission he gradually became uneasy about certain interactions he observed between Sutton and his students.

Brother Denis Doherty cited one incident where he had walked in on Sutton "wrestling on the ground" with three boys from his grade four class and said he was also concerned "just about every time" he saw Sutton mowing the school lawn with the same boy "perched between his legs".

General concerns about unprofessional conduct were raised with other Marist Brother members, however no action was taken.

In 1989 Sutton admitted to the then head of the Marist Brothers, Provincial Brother Turton, that he had sexually abused a former North Queensland student, known as ADO, who committed suicide.

From 1985 to 1987, Sutton was a primary school teacher at St Carthage's in Lismore where he would later be convicted of a spate of sexual offences against two girls and three boys, all between 10 and 11 years old.

The offences included "masturbating and fondling" students in the sports storeroom and a classroom, fondling and attempting to undress a student at his residence and forcing students to masturbate and perform oral sex on him in the monastery, storeroom and on school camp.

He was also convicted of seven counts of sexual intercourse with a child under 16, offences that occurred at a number of different places including in a car on the way home from a school camp, in a swimming pool and on school premises.

It took a number of complaints about inappropriate behaviour with children, a direction from the school's executive to refrain from certain conduct, a breach of that direction by being alone and in physical contact with two girls, a letter of final warning and a further allegation for Chute to be removed.

As far back as 1962, both a Marist Brothers teachers and Community Superior knew Chute had admitted to sexually abusing a child at St Anne's Primary School in Bondi, however the information was not passed on and no action was taken.

In 1967, he was transferred to St Joseph's (now St Carthage's) in Lismore.

In 1969, the Provincial Council decided to give Chute a canonical warning after he admitted that he 'inappropriately sexually touched' a child at St Joseph's.

He was transferred to Penshurt in Sydney and made principal later that year.

Chute would go on to be convicted of 19 acts of child sexual offences between 1985 and 1989 at Marist College in Canberra.

The Royal Commission found the failure to act by one Provincial resulted in a missed opportunity to remove Chute from teaching, putting more children at risk.

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