A royal commission investigating historical child sex abuse has been asked to make damning findings against Queensland’s most prestigious school and a former governor-general.
In submissions published on Thursday, counsel assisting said a large number of students likely would not have been abused had former Brisbane Grammar School headmaster Maxwell Howell investigated sexual abuse claims from students.
Over two weeks in November 2015, the commission heard shocking details of abuse committed by notorious paedophiles Keith Lynch and Gregory Robert Knight at Brisbane Grammar School and St Paul’s School in the 1980s and ’90s.
Tasked with investigating the institutional response to the crimes, it heard from witnesses including survivors of horrific sexual abuse, current and former school leaders and former governor-general Peter Hollingworth.
In his written submission, Counsel Assisting David Lloyd Dr Howell failed to investigate complaints that Lynch abused three students and there was a culture of sexual abuse allegations not being believed during his time there.
“If Dr Howell had taken proper action in response to BQP’s complaint, it is likely that Mr Lynch would not have been able to go on and sexually abuse a large number of students between 1979 or 1980 and 1997,” he said.
Dr Howell died in 2011 while Lynch, who taught at the Anglican-run St Paul’s College at Bald Hills, committed suicide in 1997, a day after being charged with child sex offences. Before he died Dr Howell denied being told of any abuse.
After leaving grammar, Lynch went on to abuse students at St Paul’s, which also employed paedophile music teacher Knight in the ’90s.
Gilbert Case, the school’s headmaster from 1979 until he was promoted in 2000, took no steps to investigate complaints of sexual abuse at the hands of deprived counsellor Lynch by two students, Mr Lloyd submitted.
He said Mr Case knew four public statements made claiming the school had no knowledge of Lynch’s abuse before he died were “at the least, misleading”.
In his own submission, the former head denied he was told of abuse before Lynch’s death or made misleading statements, highlighting perceived discrepancies in a victim’s testimony to make his case.
Mr Lloyd argued Mr Case had been warned of allegations made about Knight’s “behaviour and attitude towards boys” at another school but hired him anyway, which the former head also rejected.
The counsel assisting argued Dr Hollingworth, who was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane from 1989-2001, knew about allegations Mr Case had failed to respond to reports of abuse said to have been made by Grammar students in 1996.
Mr Lloyd submitted that Dr Hollingworth was involved in appointing Mr Case to a senior position in 2000 despite knowing of these allegations.
“Dr Hollingworth’s concession that the recruitment of Mr Case to the position of executive director of the (Anglican Schools Commission) involved a massive failure on the part of the Diocese should be accepted,” he wrote, in one of 48 available findings proposed to the commission.
Mr Lloyd submitted Dr Hollingworth “carelessly made a misleading statement” that same year that the school had no notice of complaints about Lynch.
In response, Dr Hollingworth denied being made aware of any allegations of Mr Case failing to investigate or making the misleading statement.
His counsel argued Mr Case gave inaccurate information to Dr Hollingworth and said there wasn’t strong enough evidence the former was informed in any other way.
In addressing late BGS headmaster Maxwell Howell’s alleged mishandling of a string of complaints, Mr Lloyd submitted Dr Howell “failed in his obligations to protect the safety
and well-being of BQA or the boys at Brisbane Grammar”.
In a 53-page response to Mr Lloyd, the school challenged most of his submissions, including those made in regard to Dr Howell.
The school’s legal team called for the historical context of the abuse to be taken into account and questioned the reliability of several abuse survivors evidence in regard to alerting authorities.
Mr Lloyd argued “many of those submissions are misconceived.”