Top NSW school spends $1 million on pedo teacher case
Exclusive Sydney school Trinity Grammar has been slammed by parents for spending $1 million of school funds fighting a civil case brought by four old boys who were sexually abused by a former teacher.
The teacher, Neil Futcher - called Futcher the Butcher by pupils - is serving an 18-year-sentence but the school has denied responsibility for his abuse on the grounds it took place on school camps and during other extra-curricular activities.
The school tried but failed to have its name suppressed in the criminal case.
So far the school, which charges students up to $34,770 a year, has spent an estimated $1 million fighting for a permanent stay of the proceedings on the grounds that it cannot get a fair hearing because the abuse happened over 40 years ago. The leading Anglican school has now appealed losing its arguments in the Supreme Court and been ordered to pay the costs of the former pupils, now men aged in their 50s.
"There has to be a limit to it, it can't be a bottomless pit," the father of former pupils said yesterday on the basis of anonymity.
"They have plenty to spend it on at the school."
There is no mention of the legal costs in the school's annual report and the father said the school was notoriously secretive, as it had been three years ago when a number of Year One pupils were found to be performing sex acts on one another and before that when boys were raped with a wooden dildo, called the Anaconda, which was made in woodwork class.
NSW Parents Council president Rose Cantali yesterday said schools panicked when they were sues.
"People panic in these situation and they get guided by the legal people," Ms Cantali said.
"Maybe rather than being a secret, they should have been more open about it."
Futcher, 70, was convicted in September 2016 on 22 charges of sexually abusing six boys as young as 11 between 1974 and 1981. He was jailed for 18 years, with a minimum term of 11 years.
Trinity Grammar has told the court that it cannot find its insurance policy from the time which means it has to foot the legal bill itself.
One of the former pupils, Rob Anderson, 56, yesterday said the school had now become the abuser of the men.
"They could have handled this in a compassionate way," Mr Anderson said.
"This is the way they are treating the old boys."
The four men claim the school camps they went on were sanctioned by the school and they were encouraged to attend, their parents were charged $35 which went into a "Camp Account" for them, their parents had to sign forms permitting them to go and the camps were featured in the school's magazines, The Triangle and The Teepee.
"There is undeniable evidence of Trinity placing Mr Futcher in a position of trust with students, beyond classroom teaching, eg as a sports coach and swimming or life-saving coach," Justice Stephen Rothman said in a Supreme Court judgment which has been appealed by the school.
"Those later camps were described as 'having enriching experiences to many boys."
Mr Anderson's mother has told the court in a statement that she had a conversation with Rev Sanders, who was head of Trinity's Prep School while her son was there, and asked him: "By the way, did you know that Neil Futcher was attacking boys at the school and attacked Rob?"
She claims that Rev Sanders said: "Yes."
Trinity has argued it is unfair for the case to hearing because Rev Sanders, along with two headmasters of the school at the time, are dead and cannot refute the claims.
Futcher was also notorious for dishing out corporate punishment and another of the four men has claimed he was severely caned.
The school had argued documents for the time when Futcher was a teacher and Mr Anderson was a pupil do not exist however Justice Rothman said files had been produced for "both before and after the period in question".
Trinity Grammar admits the sexual assaults occurred but claims the camps were not sanctioned by the school.
The school was slammed by the child abuse royal commission which found it would have done nothing to investigate the "Anaconda" allegations without an investigation by the school psychologist Katherine Lumsdaine who heard numerous accounts of students being sexually assaulted with the 'wooden dildo'.
Two boys later pleaded guilty to indecent assault and handed non-custodial sentences at Lidcombe Children's Court.
Current headmaster Tim Bowden yesterday said the "appalling" assaults for which Futcher was convicted occurred away from the school premises and out of school hours.
He refused to comment on what the school can say to parents and future parents whose children are going on camps now.
"We want to be very clear that the behaviour of Mr Futcher has been found to be criminal and was unacceptable," Mr Bowden said.
"Trinity Grammar School has a comprehensive range of robust child protection protocols to mitigate the risk of such events.
"While the school awaits the response to the current appeal before the civil court, it is inappropriate for the school to
comment further at this time."
The Court of Appeal has reserved its judgment on whether the case will go to a hearing.
The Anglican Church of Australia told the child abuse royal commission four years ago that it was "committed to handling mediation and litigation in relation to child sexual abuse claims in a timely and responsible way" and reduce the "stress associated with civil litigation for survivors."