Hillsong founder Brian Houston accused of sex abuse cover-up

Brian Houston won't be paid costs after his acquittal on a charge of concealing his father's abuse.

Brian Houston won't be paid costs after his acquittal on a charge of concealing his father's abuse. Photo: AAP

Hillsong founder Brian Houston was not the only person who failed to report his father’s sexual abuse of a child to police, and was respecting the complainant’s wishes not to do so, his lawyer has told a court.

Mr Houston, 68, appeared in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Monday, having earlier pleaded not guilty to concealing a serious indictable offence of another person.

It is alleged he knew his father Frank Houston had abused a boy in January 1970, while a guest in the Coogee home of the boy’s family, and did not report it to police.

Mr Houston allegedly found out about it and confronted his father, who confessed, in late 1999, before he died in 2004.

Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the court Mr Houston had spoken to media about discovering his father’s abuse in multiple interviews in the years following his death, including around the time of the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, but had not reported it to police.

Mr Houston covered up the crime, knowing the identity of the person his father abused and that they were a child when it happened, Mr Harrison said.

“[Mr Houston] failed to bring that to the attention of the police and did so without reasonable excuse,” he said.

Mr Houston was not the only one, his lawyer Phillip Boulten SC argued.

The boy had told his mother, who had told several others, in the almost three decades before Mr Houston found out about the abuse.

“The people who did know about it and did not tell the police about it, like [Mr Houston], did not tell the police about it because [the boy] was so adamant that he didn’t want to go to the police,” Mr Boulten said.

“Tens of thousands of people knew about [Frank Houston’s] offending … including police officers in all probability.

“There is one person who did not want to go to the police, and that is the complainant in this case.”.

Mr Houston would have been 17 at the time his father abused the boy in 1970.

“He was not aware of the offences at that time, nor indeed was he aware of other offences that his father probably committed in [New Zealand] at the time they were committed,” Mr Boulten said.

Mr Harrison said the victim had told his mother he did not want to go to police but had never told Mr Houston that.

However, Mr Boulten argued it was widely known he did not want the police involved, and may have simply forgotten he had told Mr Houston that.

“This is about a specific crime involving a specific person,” Mr Boulten told Magistrate Gareth Christofi on Monday.

“Your honour cannot be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he did not have a reasonable excuse for not reporting this to police.”

The hearing continues.


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