It would be “an outrage” for an Anglican brother, convicted of indecently assaulting a 12-year-old boy 50 years ago,to be allowed to continue in his role, the victim’s legal advocate says.
Bruce Shaw, also known as Brother Bruce-Paul, faced a professional standards board hearing at the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle’s Hunter Street headquarters on Thursday.
The hearing will determine whether Shawshouldbe stripped of his holy orders,after he was sentenced to a three month suspended jail term in April.
His barrister Mandy Tibbey argued that Shaw, now in his early 70s, should be allowed to continue in his ministerial role at a spiritual retreat centre in Stroud.
Ms Tibbey’s defence of Shaw largely centred on the fact that the incident occurred 50 years ago, when he was a young man, before he entered the Anglican ministry and that he had not reoffended in the half century since the assault.
“Many of us know in our youthful years we make mistakes and do things we’re not proud of,” she said.
Shaw pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting the young boy, after insisting the child sleep in his bed, when he was a 23-year-old teacher at a Victorian school in 1967–six years before he became an ordained priest.
He voluntarily stepped down from his ministry when he was charged last year.
While Ms Tibbey told the hearing that her client accepted the event had caused “extreme trauma” to the victim –referred to as AB because of a suppression order –she argued that the viewpoint of a victim “doesn’t oblige a court or a board to do what a victim feels should be done”.
She urged professional standards board chairman Colin Elliott not to apply recommendations of the recently-released report from the “secular” Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in a blanket fashion, just because “there’s a particular mood in the media”.
Despite pleading guilty, the hearing heard on Thursday that Shaw signed a statutory declaration in November that claimed the victim initiated the sexual contact.
AB, his wife and legal representatives were in the room on Thursday, along with Shaw and his representatives.
AB’s barrister, Jason Hale, told the hearing it would be “an outrage”if Shaw was allowed to continue in his role within the church.
Mr Hale said the glowing character references that Ms Tibbey read to the hearing from lay people and members of the church showed that there were people who “just don’t get it” when it comes to appropriateresponsestosexual abuse of children.
A victim impact statement thatMr Hale read aloud noted Shaw had been a“trusted” and “close friend”of AB’s family.After the incident, ABwas scared to see Shaw’s car in his parents’ driveway.
“It would be an outrage for a convicted child sex offender to remain in holy orders,” Mr Halesaid.“The community and the church cannot accept that. Churches have been heavily criticised for allowing perpetrators to remain in ministry.It’s not just about risk …it’s about sending a message.”
Mr Elliott will hand down his decision on January 23.