Ex-principal's handling of abuse labelled 'grossly incompetent'

Principal accused by church

A Queensland principal, who was sacked for not telling police about reports of a teacher molesting students, says it is hard to come to terms with how he handled the issue, reports the ABC.

Teacher Gerard Vincent Byrnes molested 13 female students, all aged between nine and 10, at a Catholic school in Toowoomba in 2007 and 2008.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is looking at why Byrnes was allowed to go on offending for more than a year after allegations were first made against him to the school.

Byrnes, the school's child protection contact, pleaded guilty in 2010 to child sex offences, including rape. He carried out all but two of his crimes in the classroom.

Former principal Terence Hayes yesterday accepted that his failure to report the details of the most serious sexual allegations was 'grossly incompetent.'

He conceded he did not tell the officers about the most serious allegations, including a student's 2007 claim Byrnes put his hand up her skirt. 'It's an oversight that I find very hard to come to terms with. It brings a lot of hurt to me and my family,' he said.

TJH Council

The Toowoomba hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continued for a third day in Brisbane today.

Counsel assisting the Royal Commission continued his cross examination of Mr Hayes, the former principal of the primary school where 13 students were abused by former teacher Gerard Byrnes, who is now in prison

Mr Hayes accepted responsibility for the failure to report KH’s (the child who made the complaint) abuse allegations to the police. Counsel also sought to understand action taken by Mr Hayes once allegations were made.

Counsel for Mr Fry, Senior Education Officer at the Toowoomba CEO, and for Mrs Long, Student Protection Officer at the school, also sought to clarify evidence relating to their clients.

In response to questions from Justice Jennifer Coate, Mr Hayes said he believed KH when she brought allegations to his attention. In response to further questions Mr Hayes said he thought asking the child to demonstrate the abuse (using her father) added further depth to the child’s evidence and that it demonstrated that they were taking her seriously.

Counsel for the Truth Justice and Healing Council put it to Mr Hayes that he had lied to parents, and had failed to alert senior staff at the Catholic Education Office in Toowoomba and the Bishop to the abuse allegations against Mr Byrnes. Mr Hayes denied these claims.

Counsel assisting also exposed conflict between Mr Hayes’ evidence at Mr Byrnes’ trial and the evidence he provided to the Royal Commission.

Justice Coate asked why Mr Hayes did not report suspicions of child sexual abuse to police following the meeting on 6 September with KH’s father. In response Hayes said he should have been more assertive and that’s something he’s learned over time.

Christopher Fry, Senior Education Officer from the Diocese of Toowoomba was called to the stand.

The trial continues.

For more information on the Truth Justice and Healing Council go to: www.tjhcouncil.org.au

For information on the Royal Commission go to: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/

FULL COVERAGE

Child sex abuse royal commission: former principal accepts handling of abuse claims 'grossly incompetent' (ABC)

Church accuses principal of lying about abuse case (Nine news)

Principal lied about abuse case: Church (AAP/Yahoo7)

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