Hillsong’s Global Senior Pastor Brian Houston has been charged with the alleged concealment of child sex offences by his late father after a two-year investigation with NSW Police.
Update: Houston has announced he will return to Australia to fight the charges.
NSW police said on Thursday they had charged Houston, 67, with knowingly concealing information related to alleged child sexual offences.
The investigation has been underway since 2019.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed a police brief of evidence and earlier this week provided advice to police about the case. Police subsequently served a court attendance notice on Houston’s lawyers about 2pm on Thursday.
“Police will allege in court the man knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police,” NSW police said in a statement.
There is no suggestion Houston was involved in an offence against the child.
Houston is expected to appear in Sydney’s Downing Centre local court on 5 October.
In a statement issued late last month, Hillsong Church said it had received sporadic inquiries about the Royal Commission’s official inquiry into Frank Houston.
“Two comprehensive statements were originally released in response to this matter (in 2014 and 2015). Though nothing substantive has changed, the inquiry has continued to be a source of curiosity, especially among tabloid reporters and online gossip sites.
Several wildly inaccurate stories have been published, which have led to additional media inquiries. To combat the spread of misinformation, we are now providing a summary of common questions with a response from Hillsong Church:
Q: What was Frank Houston’s position at Hillsong Church?
A: The late Frank Houston never served on staff in any position at Hillsong Church. In fact, Frank Houston’s abuse of the victim who testified at the Royal Commission occurred while Frank Houston was still living in New Zealand and travelling to Australia as an itinerant minister. This was before Frank Houston established Sydney Christian Life Centre in 1977 and became the founding Pastor.
Brian and Bobbie Houston founded Hills Christian Life Centre many years after these events in 1983. They established Hills Christian Life Centre with its own separate and independent governance. In the 1990s, the name “Hillsong” was used for the conferences and worship music of Hills Christian Life Centre. Sydney Christian Life Centre was folded into Hills Christian Life Centre in 1999, prior to any of Frank Houston’s crimes being made public. The church was renamed Hillsong Church in 2001.
Q: Is the church still under investigation?
A: To our knowledge, Hillsong Church is not and has never been under investigation by the Police as a result of the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for claims made against Frank Houston.
Q: Why didn’t Brian Houston or Hillsong Church report the claims of abuse?
A: Hillsong Church was never involved in or a party to this matter. Pastor Brian Houston found out about his father’s criminal actions toward the victim when Brian was 45 years old and the primary victim was 37 years old. Frank Houston’s criminal actions were committed when this victim was a child, nearly 30 years prior. Numerous other pastors and individuals had knowledge of this matter prior to Brian Houston learning about it.
Upon being told of his father’s actions, Brian Houston confronted his father, reported the matter to the National Executive Assemblies of God in Australia, relayed the matter to the governing board of Sydney Christian Life Centre, and subsequently made a public announcement to the church. Brian sought to honour the victim’s multiple requests not to inform the police.
The statements made by the victim to the Royal Commission in 2014 corroborate this timeline and the fact that the victim did not want the matter reported to the police. The law at the time granted an exception to reporting a crime of this nature when a person had a reasonable excuse not to report. This state law has since further clarified that this type of situation–when an adult victim of child abuse explicitly does not want the matter reported–qualified as a reasonable excuse under the law.
The Royal Commission transcripts are publicly available.
Q: Are there independent sources that can reinforce Brian Houston’s testimony?
A: Yes. The Royal Commission transcripts from 2014 confirm that the victim did not want the matter to be reported to the police.
Additionally, since the Royal Commission, the NSW state law has clarified circumstances such as these–an adult victim requesting that the police not be notified–is a reasonable exemption from notifying authorities.”
(Editors note: The report of the Royal Commission into the Pentecostal cases including Hillsong is here.
The transcripts are listed here.
AHA (Brett Sengstock) the survivor’s statement is here
In his statement, Brett Sengstock denied saying he did not want to go to the police to Brian Houston. However, other transcripts do describe him saying that to other pastors as referenced above. All the statements need to be read to form a conclusion.
The Royal Commission final report found that Brian Houston did not report his father’s crime to the police. It also found he had a conflict of interest as National President of the denomination, and as Frank Houston’s Son and that the National Committee did not follow proper processes. )