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World News

Brian Houston tells court his father’s abuse left him ‘speechless’

by Kelly Valencia

Former lead pastor of Hillsong Church has told a Sydney court he was “stunned” and “speechless” when he learnt of the child abuse allegations made against his father, Frank.

Houston, who is currently on trial for concealing his father’s sexual abuse of a seven-year-old in the 1970s, also said he had "never heard a whisper" about it before the then business manager of the church told him about it.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Houston said George Aghajanian communicated the allegations during a meeting in the last quarter of 1999.

"I could tell by his tone and the look on his face this somehow was going to be bad news," Houston told the court.

Aghajanian told Houston a man had phoned the church saying Frank Houston had abused a boy in the 1970s. The caller gave the name of the victim, Brett Sengstock, as well as his family’s address.

“[I] knew exactly who we were talking about,” said Houston, as he explained he had been in the family’s home twice before.

"How did you feel?” the defence barrister asked.

"Stunned would not be a strong enough word," Houston replied. "Just speechless."

He continued: "I was floored ... because there were individuals involved that I knew, I guess it gave it more likelihood that there could be some truth to this."

The 68-year-old explained he confronted his father after returning from a ten-day international trip.

"It was extremely tense, awkward," he said.

"He simply said 'that did happen'. He told me it only happened once," Houston added.

He went on to explain his father told him the abuse involved “fondling his genitals" and was ashamed of it, to which Houston replied to his father that he would be immediately banned from Hillsong ministries as the church had a "no tolerance policy towards paedophiles”.

Houston also maintains that during a call with the victim’s mother, she said she didn’t want her son’s name “splashed all over the church".

The pastor’s lawyers claimed it was reasonable not to tell police about the abuse because the victim was “very dogmatic” about not wanting the authorities involved.

The hearing will enter its last week on Monday.

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