|Former Knox Grammer headmaster Dr Ian Paterson arrives to the Royal |
Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday
Dr Paterson agreed he had thousands of boys under his care during his time as headmaster between 1969 and 1998 but never attempted to find out about the impact of child sexual abuse despite multiple allegations coming to his attention as early as 1975. Dr Paterson admitted he was an "abject failure".
Under cross examination by counsel assisting David Lloyd, Dr Paterson also admitted he provided glowing references to teachers whom he knew or suspected had inappropriate dealings with students.
Dr Paterson told the commission that a student complained to him in 1989 that teacher Damien Vance had groped him and propositioned him while they were smoking under the Knox chapel.
He recalled telling the boy it was a "serious allegation" and he should "sit in the library and think about what he said."
"The boy was a drama boy," Dr Paterson said. "He was known as a rather theatrical boy who could build up situations and it was that for reason knowing him as I did that I asked him to think about what he said."
He agreed that the boy was telling the truth but told the commission he did not believe what had occurred was a criminal offence which should be reported to the police and the Department of Community Services.
"I was not aware that it (groping) was a crime," he said.
Vance was allowed to resign from the school and later provided with a glowing reference in which Dr Paterson praised him as a "strong teacher" despite awareness of the indecent assault and two previous physical assaults on boys.
Vance was later arrested in 2009 and convicted of sex offences.
Apparently, Dr Paterson really didn't know that groping is a crime because he allegedly did it himself:
|Lucy Perry earlier told the royal commission she was horrified when Knox|
students cheered after she was groped by former headmaster Ian Paterson in 1989.
Photo: Louise Kennerley
Under questioning from counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, David Lloyd, Dr Paterson said he could have prevented boys from being abused.
"If you had done more to . . . make investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse that it is quite likely that a number of boys under your care would not have been abused," Mr Lloyd said.
"Correct," Dr Paterson replied.
In earlier evidence Dr Paterson admitted misleading a police officer from the child protection enforcement agency who quizzed him about child sex abuse claims at the school after receiving anonymous information in 1996.
Dr Paterson said he failed to assist the officer and deliberately hindered her investigation when she questioned him about six teachers suspected of abuse.
At the time three of the teachers under suspicion were still working at the Wahroonga school.
The commission heard Inspector Beth Cullen met Dr Paterson at the school and asked for information about the teachers. Dr Paterson told the commission he was aware of sex abuse allegations against five of the teachers at that time but did not tell the officer.
He told the commission he referred her to their staff files, in full knowledge they contained no recordings of child sexual abuse.
Under questioning by Mr Lloyd, Dr Paterson agreed that he deliberately misled Inspector Cullen and hindered the investigation but said he could not remember why.
"I can't recall why I did not reveal to Inspector Cullen my information about those teachers," he said.
He agreed it appeared he was trying to protect the teachers but when asked by Mr Lloyd whether he also wanted to maintain the school's reputation he replied: "I can't recall."
He also admitted attempting to cover up potential legal action by a former student who was molested by "notorious groper" Barrie Stewart.
Geoffrey Watson QC, who is representing the school, accused Dr Paterson of giving false evidence to the commission in a deliberate attempt to play down his role in the cover up.
The commission heard Dr Paterson knew Roger James was "too close" to students in 1975 and he was aware of allegations about Adrian Nisbett, Craig Treloar, Christopher Fotis and Damien Vance in the 1980s. In 1992 he learned of allegations about Barrie Stewartand another teacher, given the pseudonym ARZ, the commission heard.
He told Mr Watson that while he was aware of the claims: "I did not see the potential for or actual child abuse".
Dr Paterson also suggested that Nisbett's touching of students may have been accidental.
Nisbett, Treloar, Stewart, James and Vance were convicted over the offences against boys at Knox.
The hearing continues.
See also: Father's testimony brings room to tears.