A Salvation Army Officer who confessed to sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl is not a pedophile, while the Christian group once had no culture of investigation, a Royal Commission has been told.
A Salvos officer on Tuesday denied the organisation had known it had a pedophile in its ranks when being questioned about the charity’s response to Colin Haggar, a former officer the commission has been told admitted abusing the child in a central western NSW town in 1989.
The church group’s former head of personnel, Major Peter Farthing, said people who sexually abused children were not necessarily pedophiles – and instead committed crimes of opportunity.
“My understanding is that a pedophile is somebody whose primary sexual orientation is towards children or adolescents, and not all offenders are pedophiles,” he told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“Left alone with a child, they might have some brokenness, something going on in their own life which may make them vulnerable to offend and they will abuse a child.”
Haggar was dismissed from the Salvos in 1990, but was readmitted in 1993.
He was sacked last year.
Mr Farthing said an independent psychiatrist, Dr Bruce Westmore, judged Mr Haggar to be at a low risk of reoffending.
But he said the impact of abuse on the child was always the same and “serious”.
Mr Farthing also said he did not launch an investigation into allegations Mr Haggar also indecently assaulted two adult women in 1990 because “it wasn’t a contemporary action” and inquiries were not “second nature” to him.
“It is not something I’m greatly familiar with, and it is not something the Salvation Army have habitually done,” he said.
“So you know, my mind didn’t immediately run (to) `I have to investigate this’.”
Mr Farthing later said he misspoke and that many investigations had been conducted by the Salvation Army’s professional standards office.
But he was unaware a list of 150 matters of sexual assault had been recently given to police.
Mr Farthing also took issue with reports the Salvation Army had a pedophile in its ranks.
“We would dispute that,” he said.
However, he said the church had failed many of its charges over the years.
“The Salvation Army failed to love too many men and women,” he said.
“We are determined to do what is right, to right that wrong.”
Mr Farthing said Mr Haggar had not offended in 25 years.
The man now in charge of the army’s eastern region, James Condon, gave evidence last week that he accompanied Mr Haggar when he went to police in 1990 to report the offence.
Mr Condon, who was a captain at the time, could not recall details but said police had told Mr Haggar no action could be taken without the victim making a complaint.