Sydney Christian School Faces Fresh Allegations of Child Sexual Assault

by Sonia Hickey
Classroom

The Anglican school at the centre of several child sexual assault allegations is on the wrong side of the law once again.

A former pupil of Trinity Grammar School in Sydney has alleged that he was repeatedly sexually assaulted in the school office and pool changing room as an 11 year old by former Headmaster Reverend Keith Sandars.

Horrific complaints about the school were heard by the Royal Commission into Institutional Respnses to Child Sexual Abuse, including allegations that a wooden sex toy called the ‘anaconda’ was made in woodworking class.

Two former teachers at the Trinity Grammar School have been convicted of child sexual offences, and there have been a significant number of other civil claims brought by former students.

Fighting claims and silencing victims

The school brought many of these civil claims after to an end by successfully submitting that it could not be held responsible for the alleged conduct of former employees in circumstances where documents and records had been lost to time, and/or the former staff members had died.

The school has been heavily criticised for failing to investigate claims made by former students and their parents, and was also found to have secretly spent more than $1 million of school funds to fight claims brought by four former pupils who were sexually assaulted by teacher and swim coach Neil Futcher, instead of settling the cases. 

Child sexual assault convictions

Neil Futcher, who was nicknamed “Futcher the Butcher” by students at the time, is currently serving a minimum 11-year sentence after being convicted of 22 child sexual abuse offences dating back to the 1970s and early 1980s.

The second teacher to be convicted, Alexander Simpson, was arrested in front of students and parents in 2020 and sentenced earlier this year. He was caught by an undercover police officer sending sexual tests to “Anna” who he believed was a 13-yeard old he met online.

While the charges he originally faced, including using the internet to send indecent material to a person under 16 and soliciting child abuse material, carried a maximum prison term of 15 years, he received a sentencing discount for pleading guilty and was sentenced to a two-year prison sentence, to be served in the community.

The court found ‘special circumstances’ in Mr Simpson’s case and reduced his non-parole period, on the basis that he is the full time carer for his wife who suffers from several serious medical conditions.

At the time, Judge Leonie Flannery noted that the offence would be much more serious had “Anna” been a real person and not an undercover police officer.

Potential class action

In the latest case, the complainant, Mr Andrew Smith who is now 52, said he complained to the school about Reverend Sandars in 2017, but the school told the court that there were no other allegations about the Reverend.

Former students who were victims of abuse, or who may be able to provide evidence or witness testimony are being encouraged to get in contact with each other to determine the possibility of a class action against the school.

Justice for victims

Alleged victims of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church and other Catholic institutions, continue to come forward to be heard, and seeking justice is becoming easier for victims. A new law recently passed in New South Wales has meant that historic ‘gag’ orders can be overturned.

The Civil Liability Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2021 allows courts to set aside affected agreements if it is “just and reasonable to do so”.

Under the new laws, victim survivors who have been offered settlements in the past and who have been previously silenced by non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements can seek to have unfair historical settlements set aside, and in doing so, will not be in breach of any confidentiality agreements that were previously made with churches or other institutions.

The Act also places no restrictions on awards of damages for child abuse.

This is a significant step towards justice for so many victims who were originally offered paltry settlements, or threatened not to speak out.

The new laws are a result of the 2017 Royal Commission, which received thousands of allegations of abuse, almost 4,500 involving Catholic Church figures alone.

At the end of it’s inquiry, the Commission referred more than 2,500 cases to police and other authorities. Some of these cases are still under investigation, and some have made their way through the courts.

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Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Autumn 2021.

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