Former Knox head admits he impeded child abuse investigation on purpose
The former headmaster of Knox Grammar school has admitted deliberately impeding a police investigation into paedophile teachers working at the school.
Ian Paterson was approached by Inspector Elizabeth Cullen from the child protection enforcement agency about complaints of child sex abuse at the school in 1996. Paterson told Cullen he was not aware of any complaints, which he has admitted was a lie.
He made the admission in his second day of evidence at the royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse.
He also directed Cullen to files he knew would contain no information. It was not until 2009 that teachers from Knox were charged with child sex abuse offences which dated back to the 1980s.
In reply to counsel advising the royal commission, David Lloyd, Paterson agreed he knew this would impede the investigation.
Paterson told the inquiry on Tuesday he did not believe a student who complained a teacher touched him inappropriately in the 1980s because the student was a “drama boy”.
He also admitted to not contacting police after another student had his genitals groped by a man in a balaclava – suspected to be a teacher – while the boy was in his bed in one of the boarding houses.
Paterson said he did not report either incident to police because it did not occur to him and he was not aware groping was a crime.
He began his evidence with a statement apologising to the victims of child sex abuse at the school, which he was the headmaster of from 1969 to 1998. During that time there are multiple allegations of child sex abuse by multiple teachers with charges laid against some teachers in 2009.
The royal commission has heard teachers and Paterson were aware of sex abuse allegations but did not act on them and were primarily concerned with the repution of the school.
At the beginning of his evidence Paterson apologised for what he was “not aware of” at the time.
“As headmaster I am responsible for all that occurs during my headmastership, there were matters that I knew about and other matters that I did not however, without doubt I should have known and I should have stopped the events which led to the abuse and its tragic consequences for those boys in my care and their families,” he said.
He commended the courage of the victims who have come forward and acknowledged there would be victims who had not spoken out.
“An apology seems totally inadequate but I do so with an awful feeling of uselessness in my heart,” Paterson read from a statement. “… I accept decisions I made were wrong and I failed to recognise, and hence respond sufficiently to, events we now know were indicators of a sinister and much bigger picture, a picture of serious sexual abuse which would damage the lives of so many,” he said.
“This is a source of intense pain for me and my family. I am deeply and profoundly sorry.”