Parents blast principals over handling of sex abuse cases

THE parents of children sexually abused by a Toowoomba tennis identity are outraged to discover two school principals had spoken to him about inappropriate behaviour with students.

A school principal confronted the man, now aged 77, about his behaviour twice in 2004 while another principal at a different school interviewed the man and issued him with a letter in 2008.

The identity reassured both principals and continued to be allowed access to children until he was arrested in October 2009.

He was charged with seven counts of indecent treatment of a child, two counts of attempted indecent treatment of a child and three counts of common assault.

The offences occurred between June 2004 and September 2009.

A mother whose 12-year-old child had their genitals groped by the man on school grounds in 2009 was furious to discover a principal at their school was aware of inappropriate behaviour in 2004.

"I'm outraged someone knew there was a problem and failed to take action," she said.

"Their inaction has left a raft of children who have been scarred for life. How do they sleep at night?"

This principal has since left the school and apparently did not pass on information to the next principal.

The mother phoned the current principal after her child made a statement to police in 2009 and he immediately advised police and the education department.

The Chronicle phoned the previous principal who would only say "I had followed all education department and CMC requirements".

An education spokesperson said they were unable to comment on individual cases.

A second mother whose 14-year-old daughter was kissed and groped by the man at a different school in 2009 was devastated to find their previous school principal had interviewed and issued a letter to the tennis identity in 2008.

Again, this principal left the school and the next principal claimed he was not made aware.

"It was devastating, you think of schools as a safe environment for your children," she said.

"It is never good enough, when a matter is serious enough to warrant talking to the person involved, to rely on their assurances that it is all okay and that it won't happen again.

"This is even if the behaviour in question was only 'based on a level of familiarity displayed between [him] and his students' that was 'unwise in the context of community expectations' as was the reason given in our case for the principal interviewing him and issuing him with a letter.

"It warrants increased measures to protect the children through vigilance and observation. Both were sadly lacking in our case and children might have been spared the trauma had it been done."

The mother said it was extremely insensitive when the school issued a newsletter after the man's arrest thanking him for the opportunities he provided children.

"It was very insensitive to children and their families who had been traumatised by his behaviour," she said.

A school spokesperson said staff did not observe behaviour that was deemed as grooming that could lead to sexual abuse.

The Mental Health Court found the tennis identity was, on the balance of probabilities, of unsound mind at the time he committed the offences between 2004 and 2009.

Supreme Court Judge Ann Lyons accepted the man's frontal lobe syndrome impeded his ability to control his behaviour.

A police spokesperson said police began an investigation into the tennis identity in 2004 after two complaints of indecent treatment of children were made but these complaints were later withdrawn.

In 2008, police received further complaints but there was insufficient evidence to substantiate a criminal charge.

Police again investigated the man in 2009 and he was charged.

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