Morgan was in senior high school when he took driving lessons with Dave Brennan, a local instructor who ran a driving school in his regional New South Wales town. He had his learner’s licence, and needed to get experience driving at night.
At their first meeting Brennan spoke with Morgan’s family at their home, and gave him a free introductory lesson. When Morgan did not have quite enough money to cover his next lesson, Brennan agreed to give him a small discount if he paid cash.
As Morgan got into the car, ‘the first thing he said to me was “so, do you suck well do you?” and not really knowing what was going on I was trying to ignore it’. After confirming payment details, Brennan added, ‘that’s good, otherwise you’d have to be paying with head jobs’. Morgan felt confronted and confused by these comments. He hoped this was just ‘guy talk,’ and that Brennan wasn’t being serious.
As it started to get dark Brennan directed them to an unfamiliar part of town, noting ‘it’s nice and dark and secluded out here’. Morgan became increasingly concerned about what was happening, particularly as he did not know the way back to his house.
He continued driving as instructed. ‘I hadn’t said anything up to this. I didn’t really know how to handle the situation. I hadn’t really been through that type of thing to have a typical response to it.’
After a short while Brennan ‘put his hand on the back of my head and bobbed it up and down a few times. He said, “You have to get the motion right”.’ Morgan looked at Brennan and told him ‘Don’t touch me’. Brennan then directed him to drive home.
When Morgan arrived at the house he retreated to his room and did not want to speak with his family. ‘I was very angry, I didn’t know how to handle it ... I was trying to process what had happened.’ The next day he told his parents what Brennan had said and done.
Morgan made a decision to report this matter to police, to try and prevent Brennan abusing others. ‘It shouldn’t happen to someone else, what he did was just wrong ... This is something that you shouldn’t have to put up with. I got put in the position where he has authority over me, and for him to abuse that is just wrong.’
The initial contact he had with police ‘was pretty shattering’. The officers who had planned to visit Morgan at his house were unable to attend, so Morgan and his mother Dianne went into their local station.
They talked the officer at the desk through what happened. ‘He pretty much just said “nothing we can do” ... It was pretty much just going to be 50/50, my word against his, and in those cases it’s not likely that we are going to win.’
Another officer then took over, and asked Morgan and Dianne to provide a statement. Brennan was charged, and the matter went to trial based on their evidence. ‘I was a bit disappointed that more by the police couldn’t be done, more investigation into his history.’
Brennan was acquitted in the magistrate’s court. The judge stated that even though he believed Morgan’s evidence, he could not convict Brennan. ‘He said that he didn’t think I was lying, but beyond reasonable doubt it couldn’t be proved ... I appreciated that. That was probably one of the main things that sort of comforted me a little bit.’
After the acquittal, Morgan felt ‘like I’d been let down by the system’ in a number of ways. Although he did not doubt Morgan’s evidence, the judge also implied that he could have done more to stop the abuse whilst it was happening. ‘He said, “You had two opportunities to turn around”.’
When Brennan gave his own evidence to the court, he presented certain information about himself which was intended to prove his good character. This information was a significant contributing factor to the court’s decision, but was afterwards discovered to be untrue. Dianne also heard reports that Brennan had sexually abused other boys and boasted about filming his sexual encounters with them.
A suppression order was put in place by the court, meaning that the matter could not be reported by the media. Morgan was frustrated that he was not given an opportunity to argue against this order. ‘That was one of the main things, we wanted people to be able to know about this.’
Brennan continued to operate his driving school. After the court case ended, Dianne ‘took it upon herself, with my blessing, to try and follow up every lead we could to make sure this doesn’t happen. There’s so many holes in the system’.
These measures included Dianne contacting relevant government departments in relation to Brennan maintaining his Working with Children Check (WWCC), and notifying a number of organisations involved in providing driving instruction to young people.
At the time Morgan and Dianne spoke with the Royal Commission, Brennan had been required to reapply for his WWCC. Dianne understands that the charge will be taken into consideration when deciding whether to reissue his WWCC, but even so the check may still be issued.
For Morgan, the abuse, trial and Brennan’s acquittal ‘hit me pretty hard. I probably got a bit depressed at some stages that he was able to get away with it’. He and his family hope his experiences can be used to help stop sexual abuse against other young people. ‘That’s what hit me the most. That’s what I want to stop. I want to stop this from happening to other people. It shouldn’t be able to happen.’