A convicted child sex offender has described an Anglican boys’ society as a “sitting duck” for predators.
Former Tasmanian archdeacon Louis Daniels, 68, on Thursday gave evidence to a royal commission investigating the Church of England Boys’ Society across the island state and also in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.
Daniels, who has been jailed for his abuse of 11 boys and has settled a civil claim with another, was asked about the culture within the church and whether its branches helped facilitate his offending.
“A boys’ society, unless it is very closely managed, is a sitting duck,” he replied.
Allegations against Daniels were first raised in 1981 by the mother of a 14-year-old Hobart boy who had been sexually propositioned.
Then working as an assistant priest, Daniels underwent counselling at the instruction of the then-Bishop Robert Davies and was told to amend his behaviour.
He was allowed to keep working and by 1994 was promoted to archdeacon as one of the state’s top-four church leaders.
Daniels agreed that the society’s culture helped enable his offending and that secrecy played a part.
“The whole rationale was camps and tours and (that) provided opportunity,” he said.
Daniels said he had a tormented upbringing in Tasmania, balancing close links to the church with his sexuality.
“All of my offending took place before (homosexual) law reform within Tasmania so it would not matter how old anybody was, it would still have been illegal,” he said.
“I’m not making excuses, I realise what devastation I wrought.”
Daniels was asked about his interaction with fellow former clergy and laymen Garth Hawkins, Robert Brandenburg, Simon Jacobs and John Elliot, all of whom have faced abuse allegations.
“We would sort of reach the point of acknowledging a mutual gayness but there was a point which you didn’t go past,” Daniels said.
“There is a whole secrecy kind of context that’s built into the whole situation.”
In the case of Brandenburg, Daniels said he was always surrounded by boys or young men and though he never saw any inappropriate behaviour, “it made me wonder”.
He denied trading boys with the other men or discussing which youngsters would be most vulnerable to sexual advances and said if there were discussions it was kept light-hearted.
“You would get away with it by it being sort of a joke, there was never any serious discussions,” he told the commission.
Daniels said he was not part of a “ring” of clergy in Tasmania with a sexual attraction to young men but did not rule out the possibility that such a group existed.
“I suspected it. But again I had no proof.”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continues.