Paedophile teacher’s actions just a ‘silly mistake’: former Knox headmaster tells royal commission

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Former Knox Grammar headmaster Dr Ian Paterson offered a heartfelt apology to victims. Former Knox headmaster Ian Paterson leaves the royal commission after giving evidence on his failure to protect the boys in his care. Photo: Christopher Pearce

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The former headmaster of Knox Grammar School Dr Ian Paterson dismissed a claim that former teacher Craig Treloar watched pornography with a student as just a “silly mistake”, a royal commission has heard.

He also told one boy who reported abuse at the hands of teacher Damien Vance to “go away and think about what he’d said.”

Another former student who was threatening the school with legal action over claims he had been molested by music teacher Barrie Stewart was ignored, the commission heard.

The long-serving former headmaster took the stand for the first time at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and spent most of the day giving evidence, following a heart felt apology to victims.

In evidence, he said he did not realise that it was a crime for a teacher to grope and sexually proposition a student nor was he aware of his legal obligation to report abuse.

The commission also heard evidence Knox Grammar regularly employed staff without doing background checks and teachers known to be suspect were allowed to “resign” from the school with glowing references which did not mention misconduct.

Dr Paterson denied he failed to inform the police of a serious sexual assault on school grounds involving a balaclava-clad man because he was worried about the school’s reputation.

“Controlling the reputation of the school never once entered my head,” he said.

It was widely believed the perpetrator was staff member Christopher Fotis, who was allowed to resign from Knox after being arrested for masturbating outside another school. A warrant has been issued for Fotis’ arrest after his failure to appear at the royal commission to date. His whereabouts are unknown.

Fotis, along with other suspect teachers Vance and Roger James, were given positive references from Knox. Vance and James went on to teach at other schools before being arrested over the Knox sex offences in 2009.

Dr Paterson told the commission he did not quiz Treloar over the pornography claims or attempt to find out whether the incident also involved sexual abuse of a student.

He said Treloar was: “a young, relatively immature teacher who had enormous potential in the profession and who had made a very silly mistake.”

Dr Paterson said he did not ask Stewart whether he had molested a child after his parents complained about the teacher.

Instead, he advised Stewart to stop giving students lifts in his car.

The commission heard evidence that another one of Stewart’s victims, ATJ,was planning to take legal action against the school but Paterson did not report the allegations to police.

ATJ’s student file went missing from the school, the commission heard, along with the file of another student also named in ATJ’s allegations.

Dr Paterson told the commission he believed the boys took the files.

Outside the commission, a former Knox student who was abused at the school described the evidence as “ridiculous” and “mind blowing.”

The former headmaster, who worked at the school from 1969 to 1998 will continue giving evidence at the hearing before Justice Jennifer Coate on Wednesday. Adults Surviving Child Abuse: 1300 657 380Survivors and Mates Support Network: 02 8355 3711Bravehearts: 1800 272 831

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