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Update: Black Collar Crime: Anglican Priest Graeme Lawrence Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison for Raping Teen Boy

graeme lawrence

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In November 2017, Graeme Lawrence, the defrocked Anglican Dean of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

The Newcastle Herald reported:

Graeme Lawrence was the charismatic 13th Anglican Dean of Newcastle who supported the Hunter through the 1989 earthquake, the 2005 Bali bombing and the 2007 floods, and was honoured for his work by a grateful community.

He declined to comment on Tuesday after police charged him with sexually assaulting a teenage boy, 15, in the early 1990s, following a referral in 2016 from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

It marked another point in a fall from grace for the former Anglican priest that has included the public airing of sexual abuse allegations at a Newcastle Anglican disciplinary hearing in 2010, a failed Supreme Court appeal against its findings in 2011, his defrocking in 2012 and denial of child sex allegations during questioning at a royal commission public hearing in Newcastle in 2016.

Mr Lawrence, 75, was arrested at a Kotara home by Newcastle City Local Area Command Strike Force Arinya police at 8.30am on Tuesday and charged with four counts of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.

In a statement NSW Police said the charges related to “alleged sexual assaults upon a 15-year-old boy in the Hunter region during 1991”.


A royal commission public hearing in Newcastle in August, 2016 was told Dean Lawrence was a powerful and influential churchman. During evidence to the commission Mr Lawrence denied sexually abusing a teenage boy at a church youth camp in the 1990s.

He became the 13th Anglican Dean of Newcastle after moving from Griffith to Newcastle in 1984.

In 2019, Lawrence was found guilty of raping a 15-year-old church boy and sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison.

ABC News reported at the time:

Graeme Lawrence, the former Anglican Dean of Newcastle, has been sentenced to a maximum of eight years jail over the rape of a 15-year-old boy at his deanery in 1991.

The 77-year-old was in July found guilty of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.

Lawrence was the Anglican Dean of Newcastle in 1991 when he lured his victim to his private accommodation next door to Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral after a youth band concert.

The court heard how Lawrence led then 15-year-old Ben Giggins into a small room and showed him pictures of naked boys before forcing him to the ground and raping him.

“He pulled the shirt over his head forcing him to hands and knees,” District Court Judge Tim Gartelmann said during today’s sentencing remarks.

“The victim was so scared he was shaking at this time.

“The offender must have known the victim did not consent but persisted regardless.”

Judge Gartlemann said Mr Giggins had repeatedly asked him to stop.

The court heard Lawrence had taken steps to silence his victim, warningMr Giggins — who eventually broke free and ran away — not to tell anyone what happened.

The judge said Lawrence had yelled after his fleeing victim: “Don’t go telling anybody, you’re just a boy and I’m the Dean. No one will believe you.”

He said the former dean had shown no remorse for his crimes, before he handed down a non-parole period of four years and six-months.

In an earlier victim impact statement that Mr Giggins read out to the court during sentencing submissions, the 43-year-old husband and father said the incident had scarred him for life.

He said he kept the rape a secret for decades and the trauma and regular depressive bouts he experienced put immense strain on his family.

Anglican.Ink added:

Graeme Lawrence is Australia’s most senior (former) Anglican clergyman to be locked up for child sex offences.

The unmarried and likeable Lawrence was the Anglican Dean of Newcastle for 25 years. He ruled over Christ Church Cathedral. Every bishop that came to Newcastle knew that Lawrence was not to be crossed. He was the real master conductor of the Diocese. In fact, one bishop who refused to conform told the Royal Commission, “I am the bishop who is not welcome in his own cathedral”.

Lawrence was well-connected within the church, with lawyers and with business people. He had lots of friends at the Newcastle Club, an old private club adjacent to the Cathedral where Lawrence was a regular and an Honorary Member.

But his ‘good old days’ are over.

Graeme Lawrence, aged 77 years, is now defrocked and a convicted paedophile. He’s been sentenced to eight years in prison. He’ll serve at least four and a half years behind bars before having any hope of parole.

He was one of many unsavoury characters who lurked within Newcastle’s Anglican Church for decades.

He retired in 2008. Less than two years later, the first allegations started to surface about his role in enabling the cover-up of his paedophile friend, Father Peter Rushton.

Rushton was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of boys throughout his forty-year career as an Anglican priest.

Bishop Brian Farran spoke up in 2010 and alleged Rushton had molested boys who served during church services or he “arranged to make it happen”.

One of Rushton’s victims, Mr. Paul Gray, recounted in horrifying detail how the priest abused him repeatedly between the ages of 10 and 14.

Rushton allegedly cut Gray’s back with a knife and smeared his blood to “symbolise the blood of Christ”.

The demonically-charged Rushton died in 2007 without ever being convicted.

Lawrence had for years conspired to keep Rushton out of trouble, enabling him to continue inflicting trauma to hundreds of boys in the Church.

Lawrence was one of a “gang of three” including Reverend Bruce Hoare and former Diocesan Registrar Mr. Peter Mitchell who are all believed to have covered up Rushton’s crimes. Mitchell, who was once the Diocesan Treasurer, went to jail in 2002 for defrauding the Church of nearly $200,000.

Some have alleged Lawrence was part of a series of networks actively supporting Anglican child sex offenders around Australia for decades.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    The victim, 43yo, said the rape had ‘scarred him for life’….I want to write this in mile-high-letters to abusers. Healing from childhood abuse isn’t as instant as one prayer away, no survivor ever heals from it as fast as a cut finger heals. It’s a life sentence and these clergy-abusers, the lot of them disgust me beyond words.

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Matilda—I know. One of the priests in the story died before any accusations could be brought against him—just like the Catholic priest who abused me more than five decades ago.

    Too many perpetrators get away with their sexual abuse but we, the victims, wear the “scarlet letter.”

    You don’t “get over” it and nobody can “pray it away.’ Thank you for highlighting that.

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