Houston’s urgent abuse meeting kept secret

Brian Houston has pleaded not guilty to concealing child sexual abuse committed by his father.

Brian Houston has pleaded not guilty to concealing child sexual abuse committed by his father. Photo: AAP

Pentecostal church movement executives agreed to keep the details of an urgent airport meeting discussing Frank Houston’s pedophilia a secret, a NSW court has been told.

Keith Ainge, a former Assemblies of God in Australia (AOG) secretary, said the meeting at the Sydney Qantas Club in late December 1999 came about urgently at the request of Frank’s son Brian Houston, then the national AOG president.

Houston, 68, has pleaded not guilty in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court to concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, relating to his father.

The charges stem from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

AOG executives arrived at the December 1999 meeting not knowing what it was about, Mr Ainge told the court on Friday.

Houston then explained.

“His father had admitted that he had behaved inappropriately, and so he immediately suspended his credential, which was his prerogative as the national president,” Mr Ainge said.

Houston then recused himself from chairing the rest of the meeting.

“He was in the room, but he didn’t participate in decision making,” Mr Ainge said.

It was agreed the minutes of the meeting would be kept confidential in a special file, a decision Mr Ainge said was made by AOG vice-president John Lewis due to the matter’s sensitivity.

“He didn’t particularly want all these details to be available to just anyone,” Mr Ainge said.

It was also noted legal advice had been sought, which Mr Ainge said he was confident was done by Houston, though he did not know when.

“Every religious denomination now would have fast dial to legal advice … but 23 years ago it was not something that was done automatically,” he said.

Houston was also the one who had told the meeting that child abuse survivor Brett Sengstock did not want the matter reported.

Those present did not believe it otherwise required reporting, Mr Ainge said.

Houston’s lawyer Phillip Boulten SC has argued the Hillsong founder had a reasonable excuse to not report the matter to authorities after his father confessed in late 1999, believing the survivor of his father’s abuse did not want it reported to police.

Mr Sengstock has told the court Frank Houston began abusing him in January 1970, but has denied ever telling Houston that he did not want the matter reported.

Other witnesses have described telling Houston that Mr Sengstock did not want to take an investigation further and was angry when he learned his mother had told people decades after he first told her of the abuse.

The hearing continues.


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