EXCLUSIVE: Questions are now being raised on whether a wider investigation is warranted into the controversial and troubled Lifestyle Solutions organisation which looks after disabled and vulnerable adults and children across Australia after its former managing director was found guilty this month of raping a teenage girl.
On Friday, February 9, 2018, a significant court decision was handed down by Judge Antony Townsend in the Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney.
Lifestyle Solutions founder and former managing director, David Benedict Hogg, was found guilty of a single count of sexual intercourse without consent.
It’s a long fall from grace for the community entrepreneur who in 2015 was named one of the most influential people in the Australian social sector in Pro Bono Australia’s Impact25 survey. Following his conviction earlier this month, Mr Hogg was removed from the list which featured other dignitaries such as Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull; recently retired Human Rights Commission president, Professor Gillian Triggs; World Vision CEO, Tim Costello and domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Batty.
The conviction relates to an incident, involving a 16-year-old girl in his care, that took place 30 years ago in July 1988.
Mr Hogg, who was a married Baptist minister at the time, was responsible for the girl while she was on work experience during her Year 11 schooling at Carlingford High.
Mr Hogg acknowledged during the case that he had taken the young girl for a drive to “talk about problems she was having”, but denied any physical contact.
However, the Judge and jury were satisfied that the sexual intercourse without consent, in the form of forced digital penetration, had occurred on the day in question at the south-east pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Significantly, the Newcastle Herald reported that Mr Hogg’s victim was quoted as saying, “I did this so that other vulnerable people can feel safe”.
It was also revealed during the trial that the headmaster of Carlingford High had contacted the Carlingford Baptist Church to complain about David Hogg about a “violation” at the time.
However the minister at the time, Victor Eldridge, had claimed that Mr Hogg was no longer in his “jurisdiction”. The trial revealed that Mr Hogg was indeed employed in another arm of the Baptist Church.
Mr Hogg is the founder of Lifestyle Solutions and its former managing director, resigning in June 2016.
“David led the organisation through 15 years of sustained growth, innovation and diversification,” Mr Hogg’s official LinkedIn profile reads.
“An experienced leader in the welfare and disability sector, David is driven to innovate and advocate for people in the community marginalised by circumstance.”
Lifestyle Solutions is a not-for-profit organisation, founded and based in Newcastle in 2001, which earns revenue of approximately $125 million per annum, in predominantly taxpayer funding, for the Australia-wide care of 1,200 disabled young adults and 300 foster children. Its public motto is: “Pioneering change for good”.
Lifestyle Solutions – which has a workforce of just under 2,000 employees – however has a long and disturbing history.
The ABC’s Four Corners program revealed in March last year that Lifestyle Solutions was under review and investigation by both the Victorian Government and the NSW Ombudsman following a series of deaths and indications of abuse and neglect of disabled people in its care.
Some of the incidents under investigation include missing records from dead patients and the theft of thousands of dollars belonging to disabled clients, supposedly by a ‘rogue employee’.
Since then ABC’s 7.30 program reported on complaints against Lifestyle Solutions in Queensland involving the sexual abuse of intellectually disabled people in care. These complaints were upheld by investigation, but with virtually no repercussions for Lifestyle Solutions.
David Hogg’s career as a care provider to the vulnerable goes back to 1991, when he founded Hunter Mission, which worked in areas of juvenile justice, welfare, youth work and disability care in the Newcastle, Hunter and Northern Regions of NSW.
Mr Hogg’s public involvement with youth goes back as far as 1985 when he created the Blackstump Festival, which features Christian music and arts.
Due to the above disturbing revelations and in light of his newfound career as a convicted sex offender, True Crime News Weekly strongly suggests that it might be time now for authorities to indeed take a closer look at Mr Hogg’s business and personal activities over the past few decades where he has made sure that he is in close proximity to vulnerable children and young people.
When the case of Mr Hogg was raised with NSW’s Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) this week, a spokesperson told True Crime News Weekly that they were not at liberty to speak about the case until the former high-flying welfare advocate was sentenced.
“As the matter is currently before the courts we cannot comment further,” the spokesperson added.
“If anyone does hold further information they should approach NSW Police.”
NSW Police too remained tight-lipped about the possibility of further victims or charges against Mr Hogg when approached for comment.
“As this matter is still before the court it would not be appropriate for us to make any comment at this time,” a police spokesperson told True Crime News Weekly.
Mr Hogg is currently on bail awaiting sentencing in early April with the state prosecutor seeking a prison term for the man who for so long put himself up as a paragon of the community and a champion for children and the disabled.
Additional Reporting By Matt Poole.