Sacked last week: John McIver.

Sacked last week: John McIver. Photo: Supplied

The Salvation Army has denied that sexual abuse was widespread in the organisation, despite more than 100 survivors coming forward with horrendous tales of suffering allegedly endured at the hands of officers.

Kate Eastman, SC, the lawyer representing the Salvation Army, asked the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse not to make a finding of widespread sexual abuse within the organisation at a submissions hearing on Monday.

She said that two officers had been dismissed over abuse claims, including Major John McIver, who was sacked last week. Mr McIver has also been referred to the police over allegations he physically and sexually abused boys in two Salvation Army homes in the 1960s and '70s.

Father John Gerard Nestor, pictured in 1996.

Father John Gerard Nestor, pictured in 1996.

Colin Haggar, the officer who attempted to shrug off his sexual assault of an eight-year-old girl in the 1980s by saying, “It wasn't that serious ... I only fingered her”, has also been dismissed.

Ms Eastman said evidence about the Salvation Army given to the royal commission in two hearings in January and March represented the “greatest failure in its history in Australia”.

However, she said that the disturbing claims about physical and sexual abuse in four Salvation Army homes in Queensland and NSW and revelations about self-confessed child molester Colin Haggar did not suggest that problems were widespread.

Almost 18,000 children were cared for by the Salvation Army between 1883 and 1996 and 115 abuse survivors came forward to the royal commission.

While Ms Eastman acknowledged many survivors might not have come forward, she suggested that the numbers indicated abuse was not commonplace in homes formerly run by the organisation.

“The total number of claims against the total number of children reflects a relatively small number of children reporting sexual abuse during their time at the homes,’’ she said.

“It is not open to the royal commission to make a finding of widespread sexual abuse perpetrated by many officers and employees.’’

Submissions were heard by commission chair Justice Peter McClellan after hearings into the Salvation Army’s Alkira home for boys in Indooroopilly, Queensland; the Riverview Training Farm, also in Queensland; Bexley Boys' Home in North Bexley; and the Gill Memorial Home in Goulburn.

The Royal Commission heard horrific accounts of alleged abuse inflicted by Salvation Army officers Lawrence Wilson, Victor Bennett, John McIver, Donald Schultz and a fifith man who cannot be named on boys aged from about six to about 17 between the 1950s and 1970s.

Of the persons of interest, three are still alive and only one has been charged.

Only one has ever been charged, with an act of indecency.

They deny the allegations against them.

Counsel assisting the royal commission Simeon Beckett submitted that the evidence given at the hearings had been deeply disturbing.

“Many of the witnesses were the subject of brutal sexual abuse at the hands of Salvation Army officers, sometimes accompanied by extreme physical punishment,’’ he said.

“Many of the witnesses were distraught while recounting the nature of their abuse and openly wept before the royal commission.”

The commission will hand down its report into the Salvation Army in due course.

The Catholic Diocese of Wollongong will be the next organisation to be examined by the Royal Commission with public hearings to begin on Tuesday.