Former Anglican dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence has been jailed for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy in 1991, with a detective stating he’s no longer an honoured OAM but a “CP—convicted paedophile.”
Newcastle District Court Judge Tim Gartelmann on Thursday jailed Lawrence, 77, for eight years with a minimum of four-and-a-half years after finding him guilty of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.
Judge Gartelmann said Lawrence had abused his position of trust in the church to commit the offences.
“The victim and his mother must have trusted him because he was the dean,” the judge said.
“This significantly aggravates the offences.”
Outside court, Detective Sergeant Jeff Little said: “He is no longer Graeme Lawrence OAM but Graeme Lawrence CP—convicted paedophile.”
The ex-dean was awarded the medal of the Order of Australia in 1998.
Judge Gartelmann said the impact of the abuse on victim Ben Giggins had been profound particularly as he was at a sensitive stage of his development when Lawrence preyed on him.
The judge believed the victim’s evidence during the trial had a “clear ring of truth” to it while Lawrence’s evidence lacked credibility.
Lawrence, the second most senior Anglican in the Newcastle diocese at the time, preyed on his victim at his home, known as the Deanery, next to Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral.
Giggins, who was in year 10 at the time, had been packing up equipment at the cathedral when Lawrence invited him to a group gathering at the Deanery.
He said there was no one else at the Deanery when Lawrence took him into a room with framed photos of naked boys on the walls.
Lawrence asked the 15-year-old if he liked the photos and the teenager said “No”. Lawrence then sexually assaulted him.
Giggins said he was shaking and scared when he pleaded with Lawrence to stop but Lawrence kept telling him: “Just relax, it’s OK.”
Lawrence later told the boy: “Don’t bother telling anyone. You’re just a boy and I’m the dean. No one will believe you.”
The 15-year-old fled the room, wiped his tears away and asked his mother to take him home.
He was bleeding when he showered and felt dirty no matter how long he washed.
He then got into his pyjamas, cried himself to sleep, went to school the next day and never told anyone about what happened until he confided to his wife in 2016.
Outside court, Giggins—who asked for the suppression order on his name to be lifted so he could speak out – said he was happy with the jail sentence as it showed people in powerful positions could not hide from the law.
“It gives me closure due to the fact I’m believed,” he told reporters.
He urged other child sex abuse victims to come forward as his case showed authorities were prepared to act.
Lawrence was arrested after police received a referral in 2016 from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Lawrence was defrocked by the Anglican Church in 2012.