Adverse findings have been recommended against the former chairman of the Country High Schools Hostel Authority accused of not properly investigating allegations of child sex abuse at a Katanning facility.
On the second-last day of submissions to the Government-ordered inquiry investigating years of systemic abuse at St Andrew’s Hostel, it was recommended that former authority chairman Colin Philpott be held accountable for inaction during the 1980s and 90s.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Philip Urquhart said Mr Philpott failed to follow up adequately on complaints by a parent that students were suffering abuse at the hands of hostel warden Dennis John McKenna.
McKenna is serving a jail term for sexually abusing boys in his care over 15 years at the hostel.
Mr Urquhart recommended five adverse findings be made against Mr Philpott, highlighting his failure to support a boy who bravely came forward to report abuse by McKenna while he was a hostel boarder.
Mr Philpott was chairman from 1976-1999.
The inquiry was told that Mr Philpott failed to properly investigate complaints of sexual abuse made by parents in 1986 and again in 1990.
Todd Jefferis, with support from his mother, told the school in 1990 of the horrific abuse he had suffered by McKenna but was not believed and suffered humiliating rumours and inaction for daring to speak against the popular hostel warden.
“There was this groundswell of opposition against this boy by people in positions of authority. They should have been supporting him,” Mr Urquhart said.
Mr Urquhart said actions by people in authority to “vilify and ostracise” Mr Jefferis and his mother after they came forward would have dissuaded other victims to speak out.
Mr Philpott’s lawyer Seamus Rafferty described McKenna as a “protected species” in Katanning at the time the sexual abuse was occurring and said it was the role of those in authority locally to take responsibility for the abuse.
“It was the actions of those people on the spot…that allowed the behaviour to go on,” Mr Rafferty said.
“It’s very hard for a person in Perth who is separated from that and is always looking at the veneer (to take action).”
As part of his recommendations, Mr Uquhart also said it was inappropriate for Mr Philpott to ask McKenna to write a pastoral care handbook while he was out on bail on child sex abuse charges.
McKenna was later convicted and jailed for molesting boys in his care in 1991.Tomorrow will be the final closing hearing of the inquiry before Justice Peter Blaxell presents his report to government by July 18.
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