THE former headmaster accused of covering up child sexual abuse admitted he gave a glowing reference to a religious teacher who resigned after he was seen masturbating outside another school.
Ian Paterson, head of prestigious Sydney boys’ school Knox Grammar from 1969 to 1998, told today’s hearing the reference he gave Chris Fotis was “grossly inappropriate”.
Fotis, a Knox old boy, had been hired without any reference check and had prior child-sex convictions. He left the school in 1989, by which time Dr Paterson was aware of a string of complaints against him.
Dr Paterson giving evidence at the Royal Commission hearing in Sydney. Source: News Corp Australia
One was that he was suspected of donning a balaclava, hiding under a dormitory bed and groping a 14-year-old boy.
The school’s duty master Stuart Pearson told Dr Paterson that Fotis had been convicted of sexually assaulting two girls before he joined Knox and that he was verbally abusing boys.
Dr Paterson gave Fotis a reference describing him as “enthusiastic for his job” and “meticulous in the standards he requires from students”.
Police have issued a warrant for the arrest of Fotis, who failed to appear when he was called last week.
Dr Paterson revealed earlier today that he had not reported another teacher for molesting a boy because he was “not aware it was a crime”. He said it did not enter his head to report the balaclava incident.
“It never entered any one of our heads,” he said, referring to duty master Mr Pearson and Tim Hawkes, the housemaster in charge of the Mac Neil boarding house where the incident happened.
The head is accused of covering up decades of child-sex abuse. Source: News Corp Australia
Dr Paterson said he now agreed police should have been called. He denied ever telling the boys that the intruder was an Asian man who had been arrested.
When pressed by counsel advising the commission David Lloyd, Dr Paterson said: “I can assure you that controlling the reputation of the school never once entered my head.”
The head, who is accused of covering up child sexual abuse at Knox Grammar over three decades, earlier admitted to ignoring a student’s claim he had been abused by a teacher and described his as “a drama boy” who was known to “exaggerate stories”.
He confronted the claims today at the Royal Commission into Institution Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, amid new explosive accusations he engaged in abuse at the school himself.
Dr Paterson admitted a 15-year-old student had complained to him about a teacher, Damien Vance, touching him inappropriately in 1987, and the then headmaster told him to think about the allegations.
Purple ribbons tied to the gates of Knox Grammar following revelations of widespread paedophilia at the prestigious school. Picture: @concernedknox Source: Twitter
“The boy was a drama boy,” he told the Sydney hearing. “He was known as rather dramatical boy who could build up situations … I asked him to think about what I said.”
The former headmaster began his admissions to the Royal Commission expressing “deep regret” over years of abuse.
“I should have known, and I should have stopped the events that led to the abuse of those boys in my care and their families,” the former headmaster told the hearing in Sydney.
“My abject failure to secure for you a safe and secure place at Knox strikes at the very heart of a responsibility of a headmaster.”
In his opening address, Dr Paterson said he was “deeply and profoundly sorry”, and acknowledged that his decisions were wrong.
“This is a source of intense pain for myself and my family,” he said.
Dr Paterson’s appearance at the commission has been delayed since Friday as more witnesses came forward.
The Commission was rocked yesterday with a shock allegation from Lucy Perry, a high profile charity CEO who claims she was groped by Mr Paterson as a schoolgirl.
Lucy Perry was a surprise witness at the hearing yesterday. Source: News Corp Australia
Ms Perry told the hearing into the elite Sydney boy’s school that Mr Paterson groped her in 1989 when she was part of a musical being produced by her school Roseville, and Knox Grammar.
Ms Perry who is chief executive of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia (Australia), said the assault happened in full view of students at the Knox school hall, and the boys who saw it “roared with approval”.
She reported the assault to NSW police in 2009 when numerous allegations about widespread sexual abuse at the school were coming out.
Ms Perry said at one of the rehearsals she was backstage talking to some of the boys at a production of Guys and Dolls when Dr Paterson pointed to her and one of the boys and said “you and you out”.
Lucy Perry leaves the Child Sex Abuse Royal Commission. Source: News Corp Australia
Despite this she turned up at the next rehearsal and Dr Paterson, who was the producer, singled her out.
As she walked to the edge of the stage “he placed his hand on my backside. I would describe it as between a pat and a grope”. “He then slid his hand right down to cup my buttocks and (I) felt him touch my genitals outside of my clothing”.
She said he had a creepy look on his face.
When asked by Jim Harrowell, a solicitor representing Dr Paterson, if he was just positioning her on the stage she said: “I would suggest to you Mr Harrowell that positioning girls by their bottoms is not the best way to do that”.
She received a standing ovation from Knox victims and their supporters as she left the hearing.
Along with being pressed on the new allegations, Mr Paterson is expected to be asked what he told students about a balaclava-wearing intruder who molested a 14-year-old boy.
Much of the inquiry, which is now in its second week, has concerned an incident in late 1988 when an intruder wearing a Knox tracksuit and a balaclava hid under a boy’s bed and tried to molest him in the early hours of the morning.
Stuart Pearson, the former general duties master at the school and a former policeman said a few days after the incident Dr Paterson told the boys police had arrested an “Asian man” for the break-in.
Image show purple ribbons have been tied to the gates of Knox Grammar to show support for victims. Pic: Twitter / @concernedknox Source: Twitter
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse can find no record that police were ever contacted and on Monday a former student told the commission he recalled Dr Paterson saying the intruder was an “old boy” with mental problems.
Other witnesses have pointed the finger at Chris Fotis, a former teacher who is now being sought by police after the commission summoned him to appear.