Trinity College student bullied on social media after alleged rape on school trip

By Rebecca Turner
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
September 26, 2020

Two Trinity College teachers are facing charges of failing to report child sexual abuse.

A student at a prestigious Catholic boys' school was tormented and taunted by his alleged rapists and rugby teammates on social media, including while he was away from home in a foreign country.

The young man had travelled to Japan on a rugby tour with Trinity College in April 2017, when he alleges he was held face-down and sexually assaulted with a carrot in his dorm room.

Just days after, someone shared on social media a mocked-up cover of a music magazine featuring a band called "The Carrots" with a new single called "Uranus" which was "a forceful change to the music industry".

Other images distributed on social media in the days and weeks after the alleged incident included carrots and giant radishes, as well as a cartoon of a carrot with the young man's face which was labelled "Carrot Man".

The boys accused of the alleged sexual assault have not faced criminal charges because of the difficulties of prosecuting alleged crimes committed in Japan by juveniles from another country.

But a Perth court has learned much more about the rugby tour during the trial of two of the teachers who supervised it.

The Perth Magistrates Court has heard stories of bullying and intimidation by some students, how some students were threatened with "getting the carrot" and about an anaphylactic student going missing at Singapore airport en route to Tokyo, causing the plane's departure to be delayed three times.

The former Trinity teachers — Ian Francis Hailes and Anthony Paul Webb — lost their jobs following the trip and have both pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to make a mandatory report of suspected child sexual abuse.

If found guilty the maximum penalty is $6,000.

Observers from Trinity College, Catholic Education WA and Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) have been in regular attendance at the trial.

But some of the revelations during the trial have put a spotlight on the culture of one of Perth's most prestigious private schools.

It has also come at a time of many high-profile examples of bad behaviour at boys schools, such as Shore School in NSW and St Kevins in Melbourne, which like Trinity is an EREA school.

Students slept on dorm room floor

Mr Webb chose not to give evidence but Mr Hailes told the court on Thursday about how he had been a teacher for 40 years when he went to Japan with the 28 students — ranging from years 10 to 12 — Mr Webb and another teacher Eliza Knapman.

They stayed in a seaside Japanese-style hotel on the outskirts of Tokyo with students sleeping on the floor of dorms on tatami mats — something he said created problems with a lot of "hijinks", "tomfoolery" and "mucking around".

Over the 10-day trip they played three rugby matches and also took part in some shopping and sightseeing.

Every day they would have what is known as a "fines session", a mealtime meeting run by Mr Hailes and Mr Webb where student misdemeanours would be raised and those responsible would pay a 100-yen fine into a dish.

The court heard that it was at one of these fines sessions that the victim — who cannot be identified but was referred to as AB — said he told the tour group of what had happened to him.

But Mr Hailes, a maths teacher who was in charge of rugby at Trinity, told the court that while he was at this meeting he did not hear what AB said.

He told the court the first he heard of any incident was when Mr Webb told him at rugby training later that morning AB had had a carrot "put in his pants", so he told the other students to stop bullying him.

He thought the bullying stopped after this, he said, and the tour went well with no other incidents.

But he said he only learned that the alleged incident was allegedly a sexual assault when informed by the school's acting principal Peter Norman in September 2017.

Alleged victim raised incident, court hears

The court had previously heard that the school's leadership knew about the allegations for five days before they informed AB's parents, who have been constant observers of the trial.

They were unaware that in the time between the alleged incident and August–September 2017 their son was being continually bullied as stories of his experience were spread around and beyond the school.

In his evidence via videolink AB told the court at the start of the trial in late March that it was an aggressive assault, with a group of about 10 boys bursting into his room as he lay on his tatami mat chatting to a fellow student and playing games on his phone.

He said he raised the incident with teachers at the "fines session" saying: "I would like to nominate everyone in my room last night. You know what you did."

He told the court he then went on to explain exactly what had happened to him — twice.

Bullying part of 'rugby culture'

Both AB and two students who gave evidence in the trial explained how there was a lot of physical violence on the trip, with AB recalling punches being thrown and noise complaints made to hotel management by other guests.

One of the younger students recalled "fight clubs" and being threatened that they would be next to "get the carrot", which scared and intimidated him.

Another student said he did not tell the teachers because the threats and bullying were part of "rugby club culture".

The verdict in the case will hinge on the question of whether the two men formed a belief that suspected child sexual abuse had occurred.

It is believed to be the first time teachers have been prosecuted for charges of failing to make a mandatory report under WA laws.

Defence counsel Julie Condon said she had been unable to find a previous record from any court in Australia of a mandatory reporting case where the defendant had pleaded not guilty.

The trial started in late March and was set down for five days but only wound up last week as coronavirus regulations played havoc with the schedule of the court.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.