Dozens contact New Zealand police over alleged boarding school sexual abuse

By Charlotte Graham-Mclay
September 16, 2020

Auckland in New Zealand where police have charged a seventh man in connection with alleged abuse at Dilworth school.
Photo by Hannah Peters

A seventh man has appeared in court over alleged offences going back decades at Dilworth school in Auckland

Alleged sexual abuse at a boys’ boarding school in Auckland that reportedly spanned decades, has prompted the court appearance of a seventh man and generated more than 50 calls and emails to the police after officers appealed for more victims to come forward.

The allegations about the abuse of boys at Dilworth – a private school in an affluent area of New Zealand’s largest city – emerged at the same time as a long-running independent inquiry into abuse in state and faith-based care seeks to uncover how prevalent the problem has been in the country.

Police have identified 17 victims so far, and have charged men aged in their 60s and 70s with various sexual offences and the supply of drugs, over abuse that they say happened between the 1970s and the early 2000s.

Police said in a statement a 60-year-old man, who had previously been connected to the school, appeared in court in Auckland on Tuesday charged in relation to sexual violation, attempted sexual violation, indecency and indecent assault. It followed the court appearances of six other men a day earlier.

All have name suppression. The initial complaint about the alleged abuse was made in 2019, said Detective Senior Sergeant Geoff Baber, in a statement.

All pupils at Dilworth are boarders – aged about nine to 18 years old – and all receive full scholarships to attend; places have traditionally been awarded to boys from families of what the school website calls “limited means”. The school is “founded on Anglican principles”, the website says.

Ken Clearwater, the national advocate for Male Survivors Aotearoa, said the selection of boys from poorer or challenging backgrounds meant they had been especially vulnerable to abuse, but the school had responded well to the claims.

“For me, what Dilworth has done is absolutely incredible,” said Clearwater. “They’ve been honest, open and genuinely apologetic.”

He also praised police handling of the allegations. In the statement, Baber said officers “respect the courage of those who have contacted us” and “recognise that it can be difficult for victims to come forward”.

The police have asked for anyone who can help with the investigation to contact them.

Andrew Snodgrass, the chairman of the school’s board, apologised for the alleged abuse. “This should never have happened,” he told reporters in Auckland on Monday.

“We deeply regret what has occurred in our past and the detrimental effects on our old boys who suffered abuse in our care.”

Snodgrass added that the school had offered support to anyone who wished to make a complaint and had not sought to have its name legally suppressed, in order to encourage others to come forward.

The school had engaged with the ongoing royal commission into abuse in state and faith-based care, he said. That inquiry, which is investigating mistreatment of children between 1950 and 1999, recently held its 500th private session with survivors of abuse.

Clearwater said sexual abuse in New Zealand schools had been a widespread problem, reflecting historical allegations that have emerged from British and Australian schools in recent years.

One of the most egregious previous cases in New Zealand was that of the Marylands School in Christchurch, run by a Catholic order – the St John of God brothers – where staff were involved in 121 abuse allegations dating back to the 1970s.


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