“I’m not trying to shift the blame” about a pedophilia scandal, a former Catholic education officer has told a Church lawyer.
The Catholic Church has accused two of its former officers of colluding and lying to shift the blame about a pedophilia scandal.
The knives were out on the fourth day of a hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Brisbane.
Principal Terence Hayes was first told of allegations against pedophile teacher Gerard Byrnes in September 2007.
Mr Hayes told Catholic education officers, Christopher Fry and Ian Hunter, that Byrnes had allegedly touched a girl and made her feel uncomfortable, had a girl sit on his lap in class, gave children lollies and kissed a girl on the cheek.
But he told them an allegation Byrnes had “put his hand up girl’s skirts” was “just gossip”.
None of the men ever told police, even though they all knew it was their legal obligation.
When Mr Hayes asked Byrnes about the allegations he did not deny any of them, only saying he could not “recall” some of them.
Over the next 13 months, Mr Hayes didn’t follow up with Byrnes, Mr Fry didn’t follow up with Mr Hayes, and Mr Hunter didn’t follow up with Mr Fry.
Then in November 2008 Byrnes was arrested and charged with child sex offences.
He was jailed in 2010 after pleading guilty to 44 counts of child sex abuse, including 10 of rape, involving 13 schoolgirls.
Mr Fry told the inquiry that he didn’t have sufficient training about reporting sex abuse and the Catholic Education Office was understaffed at the time.
Jane Needham SC, for the Church, asked Mr Fry if he was claiming that to minimise his responsibility for the scandal.
“You were trying to shift the blame to the … Catholic Education Office for not having someone else in the office,” Ms Needham continued.
But Mr Fry insisted: “No, I’m not trying to shift the blame”.
He said he deeply regretted the harm and suffering students and families endured because of his failure.
“I regret that my performance has been found wanting; not that I have a sorrow for myself in that sense, but I just, yes I regret that I didn’t do better,” Mr Fry said.
Mr Hunter also said that he believed the office was understaffed and the abuse could’ve been avoided if there was a dedicated child protection officer at the time.
But Ms Needham the asked Mr Hunter if he’d colluded with Mr Fry before giving statements to the Royal Commission.
“No,” he replied.
“Did you and he discuss before making your statements,” Ms Needham continued.
“No,” Mr Hunter said.
He will resume the stand when the hearing continues on Friday.