Claims Marist Brothers failed to act on abuse allegations

CLAIMS the Marist Brothers failed to pluck two known predators from Lismore schools before they had the chance to destroy the innocence of dozens of children across the county, are being heard by the child abuse royal commission.

In an explosive beginning to yesterday's hearing, a suppression order which had protected jailed St Carthages Primary School teacher Gregory Sutton from being publicly shamed for his sins was officially lifted.

The commission heard Sutton had served 12 of his 18-year jail sentence behind bars after being convicted of 67 counts of child sex abuse in 1996.

He and former St Joseph's (now known as Trinity College) principal John "Kostka" Chute, who despite admitting child abuse at Lismore, was promoted to a prestigious Canberra school where many more victims were waiting were selected for the current case study because of the similar way in which the Marist Brothers fostered their careers.

In total, the Marist Brothers have received 21 complaints of child sex abuse against Sutton, most of which relate to incidents which occurred before he took up the position at St Carthages in 1985.

Counsel Assisting the Commission Simeon Beckett said the hearing would examine whether relevant complaints of abuse at several of the schools where he had previously taught, had been passed on to the Lismore Catholic Education office at the time.

From as early as 1973, Sutton's colleagues raised concerns about his behaviour towards children.

The commission had heard one teacher in North Queensland told her superiors she believed he was "interfering" with students while another in Sydney told his superiors that Sutton "should not be alone in the sports room with just one or two children".

At St Carthages, the mother of a 10-year-old girl, complained to the school that her daughter had been touched by Sutton.

The then Vice-Provincial of the Marist Brothers, Brother Alexis Turton (who was present at yesterday's hearing), was called in to investigate but Sutton was allowed to stay at the school on the condition he "not be in a classroom with any children after hours".

The commission is expected to hear former Assistant Principal Jan O'Grady raised concerns that Sutton had breached the order - he was later convicted of performing an indecent act on a boy aged between 10 and 11 during that period - before he left for a year on a "personal renewal" course and was allowed to return to the school in 1987.

Evidence before the commission is expected to reveal that by April of that year, serious concerns had been raised with the then Director of the Catholic Education Office John Kelley "about problems Greg was causing at Lismore" and the welfare of an 11-year-old student known as "ACU", whose parents had told them was often on car trips with Sutton, who took her to picnics at Byron Bay.

Sutton's criminal trial uncovered the dark truth behind the trips when he was pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual intercourse by digital penetration, three counts of indecency and three counts of assault which related to him forcing the girl to touch his penis.

In the case of Chute, the commission heard the Coraki born brother was allowed to move up the ranks to Canberra's Marist College, despite admitted abuse at schools across NSW, including St Josephs.

The commission heard that over three decades Chute abused children in a similar fashion, taking advantage of them in empty classrooms, store rooms and the school pie wagon and luring them into his office where he showed them films, which were often pornographic and used his white cloak to cover lewd acts.

Ms O'Grady, Mr Kelly, and Marist Brothers Superior of Lismore, Brother Anthony Hunt will be called to give evidence before the commission this week.

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