Salvation Army commissioner James Condon says he already had a process in train to remove an officer with a sex abuse record before a whistleblower contacted authorities.
Mr Condon, the territorial commander of the Salvation Army in NSW, Queensland and ACT, told a hearing in Sydney on Monday that his absence due to a meeting in London in early 2013 had probably contributed to a delay in removing Colin Haggar as director of a crisis shelter for women and children.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard that Mr Haggar confessed to indecently assaulting an eight-year-old girl in 1989, and was dismissed from the Salvos, but was re-admitted in 1993 and subsequently promoted.
Additional allegations were made against him in 2013.
Captain Michelle White said on Friday that concerns about Mr Haggar had been raised with Mr Condon in early 2013.
Ms White said that delays by Mr Condon in fulfilling mandatory reporting requirements prompted her to report to the NSW Ombudsman on September 4, 2013 that there was an active Salvation Army officer with a known history of child related sexual abuse.
But asked on Monday if it was only after Ms White’s actions that he considered reporting Mr Haggar to the Ombudsman and the Office of the Children’s Guardian, Mr Condon replied: “No, it wasn’t.”
He said a decision had been made to “have a fresh look at all historical cases”, including those involving Haggar, in preparation for the royal commission.
“We were reporting to the ombudsman, reporting to the police … we were in the process … we were absolutely committed to doing the right thing.”
Mr Condon said that following a meeting with Ms White, he also made phone calls, including to Mr Haggar, informing the senior Salvo that he should not have any responsibility for children at the shelter.
Mr Condon said he opposed the promotion of Mr Haggar to lieutenant colonel but it was army policy to promote a husband when a wife was taking an executive role. Mr Haggar’s wife Kerry, also a lieutenant colonel, had been made secretary for business administration and a member of the Salvation Army executive.
Mr Condon told the hearing that he accompanied Mr Haggar to Parramatta police station in the early 90s to report the assault, recalling that an officer at the station told Mr Haggar that unless the victim or the family of the victim came forward, there was nothing police could do.
The commission was also told on Monday that the Salvation Army had no plans to use the defence of vicarious liability in historical cases of child abuse, unlike the Catholic Church which had argued in another matter that it could not be held vicariously responsible for historical abuse.