Top boys' school admits failures in handling of sex-abusing teacher

Christ's College in Christchurch is supporting a student who identifies as gender diverse and...
Christ's College in Christchurch. Photo: NZPA via NZ Herald
Inappropriate sexual behaviour by a teacher with a "group" of students at an exclusive Christchurch boys' school was "brushed under the carpet" and not passed on to police.

The teacher was dismissed and it later emerged he had earlier sexually abused a number of boys in Australia - and used "unqualified" references to get his job at Christ's College in the 1980s.

Now, more than 30 years on, the prestigious school has spoken out about the "regrettable" decision not to take action - saying there "is no question" the welfare of students would come before "its own reputational interests" if a similar situation arose now.

And it has vowed to refer any new complaint about the sex offender to police immediately.

In February 2013 Lindsay William Hutchinson was found guilty by a Perth jury of repeatedly sexually abusing a teenage student in the 1980s.

Hutchinson, then 63, was convicted of 12 charges including unlawful and indecent assault and indecent dealing with a child.

He pleaded guilty to an additional three charges involving touching the victim between 1984 and 1985.

He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and must serve 10 years.

He is eligible for parole in 2023.

In the 1990s he was convicted of molesting a male student in Adelaide.

The Herald can reveal that between his offending in Perth and Adelaide he was employed as a music teacher at Christ's College.

College spokesman and Board of Governors chair Hugh Lindo spoke to the Herald about Hutchinson - and the lack of action against him.

He confirmed Hutchinson was employed for 18 months from 1985 to 1987.

Lindo said Hutchinson used "unqualified references" from Christ Church Grammar School in Perth and the Anglican Diocese in Perth" to get the job.

"He was dismissed when (Christ's College) became aware of inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature by him involving a group of boys who were involved in rowing," said Lindo.

"College did conduct an investigation and took legal advice.

"The outcome of the investigation in conjunction with that legal advice was that there was insufficient evidence to involve the police.

"With the benefit of hindsight, Hutchinson's behaviour should have been reported to the police - and the police left to determine if there was sufficient evidence or not."

Lindo revealed that the school was contacted by police in 1997 and passed on all information about Hutchinson.

"Following contact by the Australian Police who were then investigating allegations against Hutchinson at that time, College provided the information that it had about Hutchinson to the New Zealand Police and a statement was given by the headmaster at the time Hutchinson was employed and dismissed," he said.

Since then, no further complaints have been received by the school about Hutchinson to date

"If an Old Boy came forward with a complaint against Hutchinson then we would refer it to the police, apologise and offer the survivor support," said Lindo.

When Hutchinson left Christ's College he was not given any references.

The Herald was contacted about Hutchinson after a former Christ's College student James Goodwin told the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care that he was sexually assaulted by older students as part of a "hauling" tradition.

The Commission heard that teachers were aware of the abusive culture when Goodwin was a boarder in 1970 - but did nothing to stop it.

About Hutchinson, a former student said: "Christ's swept it under the carpet and we were horrified when the story broke in Australia 25 years later.

"The facts are Christ's never reported him and he reoffended in a very bad way."

Lindo said as a result of Goodwin's testimony he and current Executive Principal Garth Wynne wrote to all former students they had contact details for.

Coincidentally, before his role in Christchurch Wynne was the headmaster at the same school in Perth where Hutchinson offended.

He was not working at that school when Hutchinson was employed there.

Lindo said as a result of that message, a number of people had come forward and mentioned Hutchison, though no new allegations have been levelled.

"We received a number of responses to that communication that referred to Hutchinson," Lindo said.

"The feeling expressed by those Old Boys was that the matter had been brushed under
the carpet.

"It is true that the boys at College at the time were asked not to discuss Hutchinson's departure, outside the school.

"Hutchinson's file has been disclosed to the Royal Commission."

He conceded that Christ's College did not properly handle the situation with Hutchinson when it arose.

"There is no question that if the same circumstances arose now the police would be contacted immediately and that College would place the interests of the affected boys and their families ahead of its own reputational interests," he said.

"Regrettably, we cannot change now how the College decided to deal with Hutchinson at that time.

Lindo said he and Wynne had asked all Old Boys who wanted to discuss "any aspect of how they were treated at College" to contact them directly.

"We have also appointed an independent facilitator to help support any Old Boys who may be the survivors of abuse at College," he said.

"As I say, in hindsight, the Hutchinson matter should have been handled quite differently.

"For any Old Boys who were affected by their experiences with Hutchinson or who are survivors of abuse at College we want them to make contact with us so that we can
apologise and do all we can to facilitate appropriate redress for them."


HUTCHINSON'S TIMELINE OF ABUSE

• Hutchinson is convicted of sexually assaulting a boy in Durham, England in the 1970s.

• Hutchinson was the music teacher at Christ Church Grammar School in Claremont in Perth from 1981 to 1985. During that time he was also an organist at St George's Cathedral. There, he repeatedly sexually abused a boy. The abuse started when the boy was 13 and happened on a school camp, country hotel rooms on music tours, the cathedral's deanery and Hutchinson's own home. The boy told a Perth court he felt "powerless" to report his teacher.

• For 18 months from 1985 to 1987 Hutchinson was employed as a music teacher at Christ's College in Christchurch. He was dismissed after inappropriate sexual behaviour with boys emerged. He got that job using "unqualified references" but was given none when he was let go.

• Hutchinson was also convicted of indecent assault against another male student in Adelaide during the 1990s.

SEXUAL HARM - DO YOU NEED HELP?

If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.​

If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone contact the Safe to Talk confidential crisis helpline on:

• Text 4334 and they will respond

• Email support@safetotalk.nz

• Visit https://safetotalk.nz/contact-us/ for an online chat

Alternatively contact your local police station - click here for a list.

If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.

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