The decision comes nearly two years to the date after Houston was charged by New South Wales (NSW) Police Force for allegedly concealing child sex offenses against Brett Sengstock. These child sex offenses, which took place in the 1970s, were perpetrated by Frank Houston, Brian’s father and fellow pastor.
Magistrate Gareth Christofi ruled that Houston was following the wishes of Sengstock and had a reasonable excuse for not reporting his father’s sexual abuse to the authorities after he became aware of it in 1999.
Christofi said that there was “little doubt” Hillsong Church’s former pastor believed Sengstock desired to keep the abuse that Frank Houston inflicted upon him as a minor quiet and “therefore had a reasonable excuse for not bringing the matter to the attention of police.”
Although Frank Houston admitted to the abuse near the end of his life, he was never charged. He died at the age of 82 in 2004.
If convicted, Brian was facing a potential five-year prison sentence.
“I’ve been found not guilty today, but in fact I’ve always been not guilty,” 69-year-old Brian Houston told reporters outside the courthouse.
Brian expressed his grief toward his father’s abuse survivor, saying, “I want to express my sadness to Brett Sengstock, genuine sadness about what my father did to him and all his victims. He was obviously a serial pedophile. We probably will never know the extent of his pedophilia.”
“A lot of people’s lives have been tragically hurt, and for that I’ll always be very sad,” Brian added. “But I am not my father. I did not commit this offense.”
Brian expressed his belief that the charges against him were a targeted attack, saying, “If I wasn’t Brian Houston from Hillsong, this charge would of never had happened.”
“Today I’ve received some recognition of abuse for a 7-year-old child who was brutally abused at the hands of a self-confessed child rapist and coward, Frank Houston,” abuse survivor Sengstock told reporters. “Regardless of today’s outcome, I have received a life sentence. Blaming the victim is as repulsive as the assaults themselves.”
Brian Houston resigned from Hillsong in March 2022 after he was placed on disciplinary sabbatical for substance abuse and inappropriate activity involving women.
Brian Houston’s Daughter Shares Her Relief
Brian and Bobbie Houston’s daughter, Laura Toganivalu (“Toggs”), shared on Instagram how she sat beside her father in the courtroom and “exhaled with an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude at the magistrate’s decision.”
“However,” she said, “today is still marked by the painful reality that victims of abuse have to live with forever, and for that, my heart will always remain heavy.”
Toganivalu described the day her father sat her down and told her about the abuse her grandfather had committed.
She said, “Roughly 25yrs ago, I was barely a teenager. I came home from school one day and my Dad sat me down and told me he had recently learned of evil acts perpetrated by my grandfather toward a child, some 30 years prior and when my Dad was a child himself (55yrs ago!).”