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  • Knox 'was told' of abuse claims
  • By Anthony Klan
  • The Australian
  • 28/02/2009
  • Contributed by: The Rooster ( 258 articles in 2009 )
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KNOX Grammar compiled at least two reports into alleged child sex abuse at the prestigious Sydney school, with one wide-ranging review covering more than 25 years of complaints.

Former Knox Grammar School board member Ruth Mitchell commissioned a wide-ranging investigation into sex abuse at the school following allegations against teacher Adrian Nisbett in 2003.

A source close to the school said Ms Mitchell, who retired from the Knox board for unrelated reasons in 2006, was angered the board and school management had taken little action over the abuse report.

It is understood the investigation, which examined child sex abuse allegations spanning more than 25 years, reviewed possible litigation risks to Knox.

Ms Mitchell would not comment yesterday, directing The Weekend Australian to Knox principal John Weeks. Mr Weeks did not return numerous calls this week.

The school - whose alumni include former prime minister Gough Whitlam and actor Hugh Jackman - has been rocked by a string of child-abuse claims, with one current and two former teachers charged in court in the past two weeks.

Former teacher Adrian Nisbett, 59, was charged on Tuesday with four sexual assault and indecency offences alleged to have taken place between 1976 and 1990.

On February 18, retired Knox teacher Barrie Tiffin Stewart, 71, appeared in Hornsby Local Court in Sydney on four child-related sex offences between 1984 and 1987.

A day earlier, Craig Treloar, a Year 6 teacher, was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting two students in 1986. The 49-year-old was refused bail.

Ian Paterson, who was Knox headmaster between 1969 and 1999, has denied any knowledge of child-abuse allegations facing Mr Treloar or Mr Stewart.

"I hadn't a clue what was going on - it's unbelievable" Dr Paterson reportedly said of the allegations.

Dr Paterson did not return numerous calls yesterday.

Contacted by The Australian this week, Mr Nisbett said he would defend the allegations in court. "I would dearly love to say my side, but now is not the time," he said.

"I understand your interest, but try to appreciate what I'm going through at the moment.

"I'm under fairly strict instructions from the solicitor. It really wouldn't be fair to anyone to say anything at the moment."

Hornsby Local Court was told on Tuesday that Knox had commissioned an investigation into Mr Nisbett in 2004 following abuse allegations.

It can be revealed the school also commissioned an external investigation into Mr Nisbett in 2003, after earlier allegations. It is understood neither investigations found proof of impropriety.

The second investigation into Mr Nisbett's conduct in 2004 was undertaken by the NSW Ombudsman, who this week defended a decision not to alert police to allegations against a teacher at Knox in 2004 on the grounds that "possible inappropriate conduct" such as "grooming" or "getting too close" to a child did not constitute a criminal offence.

Ombudsman Bruce Barbour told 2GB's Ray Hadley he would have referred the matter to police if the allegations had been of sexual misconduct or sexual assault. But he suggested this was not the case.

"I can't talk about the specific circumstances in relation to the Knox matter in 2004," he said. "If allegations of that kind were being made, not only would we tell the school to refer them to police, we would make sure they were referred to police."

Source: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25117239-5006784,00.html

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