Honesty not the best policy for Marists

Honesty not the best policy for Marists

A Church lawyer advised the Marist Brothers to keep a jailed pedophile brother out of the legal arena when he was released, because he was so honest he was likely to “dump on others”.


Brother Alexis Turton, the former head of the Marist Brothers Order in Australia, was copied into an email to the current head of the order Brother Jeffrey Crowe from a church lawyer in May, 2009.

Br Turton was under intense cross examination on day two of his evidence to a royal commission hearing into how the order handled allegations of sexual abuse against two brothers jailed for pedophilia.

The solicitor representing Damien De Marco, who was abused by John Chute (known as Brother Kostka), challenged Br Turton as to what knowledge he had of the abuse.

Peter O’Brien asked Br Turton if he had minimised allegations put to him by Mr De Marco in 1993 in his statement to the commission, because of legal advice that the order would not be covered by church insurers if it had knowledge of the abuse prior to 1994.

Br Turton’s evidence to the commission was that Mr De Marco complained of excessive and aggressive “kissing and hugging”, which he did not interpret as sexual assault.

In reply to Mr O’Brien, he said he did not include the fact that Mr De Marco told him Chute had tried to put his hand down his pants, because he came away from the meeting with an emphatic sense the “atmosphere was not genital”.

He denied the legal advice influenced him and said he had not taken in the detail when he got it.

Mr O’Brien then referred to the 2009 letter from church lawyer Howard Harrison, into which Br Turton was copied because he was then professional standards officer dealing with victims who were coming forward seeking redress.

The letter said Mr Harrison had just returned from Canberra where he had visited Chute in jail.

“Regrettably quite up front about various discussions with provincials over the years … I think we will have some problems with indemnity in due course but not immediately,” Mr Harrison wrote.

It said the insurers would probably argue the provincial response was inadequate and Chute should have been taken out of school earlier.

“We have no option but to make Kos (Chute) available to CCI (the insurers). Trouble is fundamentally he has high honesty and integrity levels and all of my “suggestions” about not dumping on others excessively go out the window pretty quickly once there is a conversation under way.”

It advised: “We would need to keep him well away from the legal arena upon release.”

Mr O’Brien put it to Br Turton that the email suggested that Chute should “not dump on others in the order, as he had done in his psych report”.

Br Turton said to him it just meant that Chute “is going to be very straight and honest in what he says”.

He said he did not know to what legal arena the term referred.