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Brian Houston’s $1 Million (AUD) in Legal Fees Won’t Be Covered, Despite Acquittal

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Screenshot from YouTube / @ChristianFaith

Brian Houston, founder and former leader of Hillsong, was unsuccessful in his efforts to recoup an estimated $1 million in legal fees. Those costs, equivalent to about $650,000 in U.S. dollars, were incurred when Australian prosecutors tried Houston for allegedly covering up sexual abuse by his late father.

Houston, 70, was acquitted of those charges in August 2023. His legal team then applied to have Houston’s legal fees covered by the state, saying the case was unwarranted and excessive.

RELATED: Brian Houston: ‘Kissing’ Post Was a ‘Deliberate Attempt To Embarrass and Discredit’

But on Friday (March 22), a magistrate in Sydney dismissed that request, saying the proceedings weren’t brought “without reasonable cause.” Magistrate Gareth Christofi added that he didn’t find any “exceptional circumstances relating to the conduct of the prosecutor” that would warrant the state paying Houston’s court fees.

Magistrate: Litigation Against Brian Houston Was Warranted

In their arguments to have Brian Houston’s court costs paid, his lawyers said police hadn’t spoken to some main witnesses. They also said prosecutors ignored the fact that Houston was honoring the victim’s request for privacy.

But the magistrate ruled that litigation was appropriate because “the applicant was the son of the man who committed these offenses [and]…was in a position of authority and had the potential at least to influence how the matter would be dealt with.”

As ChurchLeaders has reported, Houston was charged in August 2021 for concealing a serious indictable offense—sexual abuse perpetrated by his father, Pastor Frank Houston, during the 1970s. The elder Houston admitted to his son in 1999 that he had abused 7-year-old Brett Sengstock.

Brian Houston said that upon learning of the abuse, he suspended his father’s credentials and informed Hillsong board members and denominational executives. During the trial, Houston’s lawyers called the allegations “very unfair” and “so flimsy,” adding that the cover-up claim was “contradicted by a substantial body of evidence.”

Houston’s legal team also argued that their client had a “reasonable excuse” not to go to the police: Sengstock had requested that the abuse not be reported.

The Crown prosecutor, meanwhile, accused Houston of attempting to “protect the reputation of the church and his father” and enforce “a culture of silence.”

If convicted, Brian Houston could have faced up to five years in prison. Frank Houston, who was never charged, died in 2004.