Hillsong pastor Brian Houston stands by decision not to report dad's child abuse to police

Brian Houston, Senior Global Pastor of Hillsong Church.Hillsong

Hillsong pastor Brian Houston has stood by his decision not to go to the police after he first became aware of his late father's paedophilia.

In an interview with Ben Fordham on Sydney radio station 2GB, Houston was grilled about his handling of the sex abuse case involving his father, Frank Houston, who died in 2004. 

Brian Houston was president of the National Christian Churches when his father's paedophilia came to light. He told the Royal Commission inquiry into the abuse that, after finding out, he instructed Frank never to preach again. 

During the interview, Fordham pressed Houston on a Newcastle Herald report last week about an hour-long recording of his father preaching a sermon at Maitland Christian Church apparently in 2004, five years after Houston removed his dad's ministerial credentials. 

He claimed he had never heard of the recording before the Newcastle Herald report was published, and that if his father had preached the sermon as alleged, "it was certainly behind my back." 

"But I can tell you this," he added.  "My father died in 2004 and by then, he had dementia to such a degree that he hardly knew who he was ... literally, he was virtually incoherent." 

Asked whether he agreed that his father should not have been preaching in front of a church in 2004, Houston replied: "100 per cent." 

He continued: "It's news to me, but the whole point is, of course I agree because he was specifically told not to preach again. But I'll say it again: he by then was very, very given over to dementia." 

The Newcastle Herald report states that Frank can be heard in the recording addressing young boys in the congregation. 

Victim Brett Sengstock (L) and Frank Houston (R)(9News)

"In the recording Frank Houston talks directly to young boys in the church, including 'This curly-headed young man... what a fetching young fellow he is. Curly hair, sort of. Good looking. It's not your fault you're good looking. Thank God you are. Who wants to be ugly when you can be good looking?'" the report reads. 

It also cites claims from Maitland Christian Church Pastor Bob Cotton that he and a Central Coast pastor were left in the dark about Frank's paedophilia because they were informed only of "serious moral failure" and not specifically child sex abuse, and that attempts to clarify his preaching status were unsuccessful. 

Cotton said he was horrified to hear the recording.

"Betrayal? That's an understatement. I felt, and still feel, gutted like a fish," he told the newspaper, adding that he was "blindsided" by the revelations that emerged in the official inquiry. 

Addressing these claims in the interview, Brian Houston alleged that Cotton was "being fairly flexible with the truth" and that he "very aware" about the claims of sexual abuse surrounding his father. 

He continued: "I think by then, I was well and truly saying that on a public scale [that his father had been accused of child sexual abuse].  I think by then I'd told the whole Hillsong Conference." 

Houston went on to say that, in hindsight, he wished the official letters from the NCC about Frank's abuse had taken "a harder line". 

"It was paedophilia, it's criminal; it should have been described as that," he said. 

When Fordham asserted that Houston should "now clearly know" that he "should have gone to police", Houston insisted that his decision not to inform the authorities at the time had been the right one. 

"No, I don't and I'll tell you why," Houston answered.  "Because he [victim Brian Sengstock] was 36-years-old when I got this complaint and he was making it very clear he didn't want the police involved.

"He told me that he didn't want the police involved, he told his family and other people, all people who knew about this well before I did.

"The reality is that the law itself actually spells out that very circumstance, that if an adult victim doesn't want the police involved, that's a reasonable excuse for not including the police." 

Asked if he would do everything the same if he could go back in time, Houston replied: "I would on that issue because I feel like I was doing the right thing by that victim who was very adamant and very clear to numbers of people that he did not want the police involved.

"And in fact he testified of that in the Royal Commission not just once but he confirmed it two or three times at the least."