A private schoolboy who alleged he was molested at least 11 times by a headmaster at his $37,000-a-year college will not be able to pursue legal action.
Andrew Smith was seeking damages against Trinity Grammar Preparatory School in Strathfield in Sydney’s inner west for injuries he claims to have suffered in 1981 when he was in Grade 6, aged 11.
The now 52-year-old alleged he was sexually touched by Reverend Keith Sandars – who was headmaster of the junior school at the time – in his office on 11 occasions.
Mr Smith did not make the allegations known to the school until 2017, some five years after Reverend Sandars had died.
Trinity Grammar contended in court there was no way to prove the allegations and that they’d never had a complaint of a similar nature against the late reverend.
The Supreme Court of NSW on Tuesday upheld a decision to prohibit Mr Smith from pursuing legal action against the school given the accused is not alive to defend himself.
The now 52-year-old alleged he was sexually touched by Reverend Keith Sandars (pictured) – who was headmaster of the junior school at the time – in his office on 11 occasions. Trinity Grammar contended in court there was no way to prove the allegations and that they’d never had a complaint of a similar nature against the late reverend
Andrew Smith was seeking damages against Trinity Grammar Preparatory School for injuries he claims to have suffered in 1981 when he was in Grade 6, aged 11
The court determined the school would be ‘unable to meaningfully deal with the claim’ and continuing in proceedings would be ‘manifestly unfair to the defendant’.
Similarly, potential witnesses – including four staff members who were employed at the school during the alleged offending – have also since died.
Mr Smith’s school records could not be located and ‘there is no report of any alleged sexual abuse by Reverend Sandars in relation to the plaintiff or any other student’.
‘This is a regrettable conclusion, however these are exceptional circumstances,’ the judge said.
But the court did hear Reverend Sandars was notified of abuse allegations levelled against his staff and chose not to report or document the claims.
Neil Albert Futcher was imprisoned for at least 11 years for offences he committed against six children during his tenure at Trinity Preparatory Grammar between 1974 and 1981.
Neil Albert Futcher was imprisoned for at least 11 years for offences he committed against six children during his tenure at Trinity Preparatory Grammar between 1974 and 1981
One of the complainants, former student Rob Anderson, and his parents made a complaint directly to Reverend Sandars which went unanswered.
The court determined students likely believed Reverend Sandars was their contact point for any issues and, even if they did complain about untoward conduct by any teacher, ‘Reverend Sandars would likely not make a record of the allegations, especially if they were leveled against him’.
Futcher was known amongst students as ‘Futcher the Butcher’ and would lure boys back to his inner-west apartment after school camps and sporting events to molest them.
In 2017, he was convicted of 22 sex offences.
‘Having him in prison, it goes a long way to us on having a better outlook on life,’ Mr Anderson said of the outcome.
In total six students came forward with allegations against Futcher, and the $37,000-a-year college spent $1million fighting the claims in court.
Even after being found guilty Futcher has maintained his innocence. He says his victims colluded against him so they could sue the organisations he worked for.
It’s understood Reverend Sandars received complaints about at least four staff members during his tenure.
Mr Smith expressed disappointment that he could not seek damages from the school, noting the alleged abuse had changed the course of his life.
The single father-of-two said he had difficulty maintaining relationships and starting smoking marijuana to cope with the ‘recollections’.
‘I smoked dope for a long time, everyday for about 25 years, but stopped in 2017. I only smoke dope to dull the mental pain of what had happened to me. I drink Wild Turkey, about six per day,’ he told the court.
More recently, senior staffer Alexander David Simpson was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment for sending sexually explicit images of himself to a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl
He also claims he was unable to maintain any meaningful employment as a result of his mental health issues.
When Mr Smith contacted Trinity Grammar in 2017 to report the abuse, he was offered counselling.
But the school maintains there is no evidence of misconduct on Reverend Sandars’ behalf and contends he was well liked by students and old boys alike.
The headmaster who first dealt with Mr Smith’s complaint says he considered Reverend Sandars ‘a charismatic and energetic person who was well respected.
‘He did not consider Reverend Sandars to be a moral risk to students. So far as he can recall, no one ever previously raised concerns of this nature about Reverend Sandars,’ the court heard.
A second staffer, who was a teacher at the time of the alleged offences, described Reverend Sandars as ‘a bit of a toucher’.
Simpson sent messages (above) to an undercover police officer believing it was a 13-year-old girl
Simpson sent explicit messages to an undercover police officer who was pretending to be a 13-year-old girl
‘He would put his arm on the boys, around them, and touch them. I heard talk from some of the kids about this. I may have seen it myself. He was a bit of a toucher,’ Gregory James Cluett said in a statement provided to the court.
‘He was a very imposing sort of man. Even as a teacher at the senior school I found him a bit imposing, I got the impression from seeing him with some of the boys that he was a touchy feely person. I thought it was innocent.’
The court determined Trinity Grammar investigated the matter to the best of its ability given limited access to witnesses, the accused or school records at the time.
More recently, senior staffer Alexander David Simpson was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment for sending sexually explicit images of himself to a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.
The court determined he was ‘unlikely to reoffend’ after seeking rehabilitation at the first possible opportunity and expressing deep remorse.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse also addressed a notorious incident at the school in which a boy was sexually abused by a wooden sex toy dubbed ‘the anaconda’ that was made in a woodwork class.
The school’s headmaster, Tim Bowden, moved to reassure parents there was no suggestion any of their children had been mistreated by Simpson