Former Griffith Anglican priest Graeme Lawrence has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of indecency relating to an alleged encounter with a 15-year-old male in 1991.
Mr Lawrence left Griffith in 1984 when he was appointed 13th Anglican Dean of Newcastle
The District Court trial of Mr Lawrence, who was 48 or 49 years old at the time of the alleged offence, began in Newcastle on Monday afternoon with the opening addresses of the Crown prosecutor, Craig Leggat SC, and the defence barrister, Paul Winch.
Mr Lawrence, wearing a grey sportscoat, black trousers and an open-necked shirt, looked on as a jury of seven women and five men was empanelled for a trial expected to take about eight days.
In his opening remarks, Judge Tim Gartelmann SC told the jury that while "there may have already been publicity in relation to this matter", they must make their decisions on the charges "only on the evidence" before them. He said the opening addresses of Crown and defence were not evidence in themselves, but an indication of what the jury would hear during the trial.
Describing the prosecution case, Mr Leggat said the jury would hear the complainant (whose identity is protected by the court) was part of a church youth group at St Philip's, Waratah, and at 14 had begun helping with the equipment of a church rock group that played at various events.
One night in 1991, between April 1 and December 31, the band had played at Christ Church Cathedral.
Mr Leggat said the jury would hear that Mr Lawrence, the dean of Newcastle since 1984 and second only to the bishop in church hierarchy, lived next door to the cathedral in a house known as the Deanery. He said they would hear that the accused approached the complainant and asked whether he wanted to come back to the Deanery where there would be other youths.
Don't bother telling anyone ... no-one will believe youA statement Graeme Lawrence is alleged to have made to the complainant
They would hear that the 15-year-old agreed because "he expected to hang out with other kids", and so he and Mr Lawrence walked across the church grounds to the gate that led to the Deanery door. Mr Leggat said it was "the first and only time" the complainant had been inside the house. He said the jury would hear that Mr Lawrence led the complainant to a room with framed pictures of naked boys on the walls, and asked him whether he liked them.
Already nervous because there was no-one else around, he said no. The dean then allegedly grabbed hold of the 15-year-old's shoulders and told him to "relax, it's OK".
The dean then allegedly grabbed the youth's tee shirt and pulled it halfway over his head, so that he "couldn't really see" and then forced him to his hands and knees as he "started to cry".
He allegedly pulled the youth's pants down and began to play with his genitals, again telling him to relax.
Mr Leggat said the jury would hear the 15-year-old told him to stop, but that the dean forced himself onto the complainant. The evidence would be that the youth "felt pain" as the assault continued, until he managed to jump up, pull his pants up and his shirt down, and run back to the cathedral, and his mother.
He said the jury would hear the 15-year-old later saw the dean with his mother. He thought about telling his mother, but didn't think she'd believe him.
He got home that night, saw "a little bit of blood" in the shower and then "cried himself to sleep", very angry at what had happened.
Mr Leggat said the complainant remained in the church and kept going to services. The evidence would be that the dean tried to talk to the 15-year-old, but that he ignored him. At one stage, the accused allegedly said: "Don't bother telling anyone, you know who I am, no-one will believe you."
Mr Leggat said a few years later the youth was at a railway station, possibly Broadmeadow, when he saw the dean and "froze and couldn't speak".
The evidence would be that his mother, who was with him, saw that her son looked "pale and white" and "didn't say hello to the dean".
It was not until years later, when he became a parent, that he disclosed the alleged abuse, leading to the present charges.
In his opening address for the defence, Mr Winch reminded the jury that "the defence doesn't have to prove anything" and that Mr Lawrence had the presumption of innocence throughout the trial. Mr Winch said that in pleading not guilty, it was Mr Lawrence's response that "there was no sexual contact at all" between the two and "no particular relationship" between them "at that particular time".
"On no occasion did he escort or take (the complainant) to the Deanery," Mr Winch said.
"They were never together at the Deanery at any time."
Earlier, the prosecution had provided each jury member with a floor plan of the Deanery, with Mr Leggat pointing out a bedroom on the plan, and telling the jurors they would "hear some evidence about that particular room" during the trial.
Mr Winch cautioned jurors to be "careful in dealing with evidence" relating to the Deanery plan, because the 1989 Newcastle earthquake had caused "significant damage" to the cathedral and the Deanery. He said the Deanery underwent some "renovation" and "changes in decoration" after the quake, and this was occurring in 1991.
With this in mind, Mr Winch asked the jurors to "bring (their) critical faculties to bear" on the prosecution case, and to ask whether it "meets the standard of being beyond reasonable doubt".
Judge Gartelmann told the jury they would have the chance to see the Deanery first-hand when they were taken to see it, probably Wednesday morning.
The case resumes on Tuesday, with the evidence of the complainant, as Judge Gartelmann explained, to be held in closed court.