FORMER Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft ran up a legal bill of nearly $500,000 defending himself during a devastating royal commission public hearing into child sex allegations in the Hunter region – but Newcastle diocese is only paying $5000 of it.
Perth Anglican priests and parishioners are reportedly furious that the Western Australian church has paid the bill after Newcastle Anglican diocese insurers declined to pay the former Perth archbishop’s legal expenses.
The rejection of liability in May came as a shock to many in Perth, media accounts in Western Australia have said.
In a statement released by the Perth diocese a spokesperson indicated it also came as a surprise to the diocese.
“Diocesan leaders were working on the assumption that most of the legal expenses relating to preparing for and attending the various public hearings… would be recovered through a claim on the Diocese of Newcastle’s insurers,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement on Tuesday Newcastle Anglican diocese confirmed it had contributed just $5000 to Archbishop Herft’s legal costs.
“In May the diocesan council of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle advised the Synod of the extensive legal costs of participating in the Royal Commission. These costs include $5000 towards legal assistance for Archbishop Herft.
“Our insurers advised that because of the type of policy, the diocese’s legal costs were not covered by them.
“This has been the consistent advice to Anglican dioceses throughout the country who have similar policies.
“The Diocese of Newcastle has previously declined further assistance to Archbishop Herft.”
In April counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing into Newcastle Anglican diocese, Naomi Sharp, recommended that the commission find that Archbishop Herft had been "weak, ineffectual and showed no regard for the need to protect children from the risk that they would be preyed upon”.
“It was a failure of leadership,” Ms Sharp said in a final submission to the commission which is yet to release its final report on the Newcastle Anglican diocese, after devastating evidence to a public hearing in August.
Archbishop Herft resigned from his position as Perth Anglican leader after apologising to abuse victims during the public hearing.
Ms Sharp found Archbishop Herft “mishandled the allegations of child sexual abuse made against two of the most senior and domineering priests in the diocese”.