Reporting on school sex abuse in The Courier-Mail

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I’ve recently started unearthing some stories I wrote while working at The Courier-Mail a long time ago. These two pieces are about the cover-up of sexual abuse at an exclusive Brisbane private school.

Ex-students reject payment over Grammar abuse claims

18/01/2003

TWO former Brisbane Grammar School students have refused to accept an out-of-court settlement over alleged sexual abuse by a former school counsellor, saying they are not prepared to “sell their silence”.

They revealed that they and 63 other BGS students who alleged abuse at the hands of Kevin John Lynch had been offered vastly different settlement amounts, based on when the abuse occurred.

Peter Callaghan, 38, and Richard Beukema, 40, came forward after The Courier-Mail reported yesterday that BGS was in the process of settling millions of dollars in legal claims.

They have sought new legal representation after cancelling the services of law firm Shine Roche McGowan, which represents the other claimants.

The two claim the settlements being offered to some of the alleged victims are “an insult” and that the legal agreements which accompany them are an attempt to cover up the extent of the school’s knowledge of Lynch’s abuse.

“My initial claim was $366,000 based on an independent assessment, but then after eight hours of mediation all they offered was a pathetic apology and a token gesture of $10,000,” Mr Callaghan said.

“I am not prepared to sell my silence.”

The pair said they were concerned there was an impression that all the alleged abuse victims were happy with the way the school had handled the settlement process.

Mr Callaghan and Mr Beukema, both allegedly abused in the late 1970s, were told by Shine Roche McGowan their claims for compensation were weaker than those where abuse occurred after 1980 when the school was allegedly first informed of the abuse.

Mr Callaghan, who attended the school for Years 8 to 10 from 1977 to 1979, alleged that several facts about the school’s knowledge of Lynch’s activities had not been made public.

Mr Callaghan alleged that from 1977 to the 1980s three more complaints were made to the school about Lynch but the school took no action. He also claimed that in 1997, Lynch’s former employer, St Paul’s School, warned BGS in a letter that claims of sexual abuse against Lynch were being made and that Grammar should be prepared.

Brisbane Grammar School board of trustees chairman Howard Stack yesterday said he had no knowledge of the alleged 1997 letter from St Paul’s.

“I don’t believe any such letter exists. I was chairman at that time and if you can produce anything like that I would be flabbergasted,” Mr Stack said.

Mr Callaghan also produced a copy of a 1999 police report which shows that police spoke to Grammar’s deputy headmaster in response to a complaint he filed against Lynch. No further action was taken.

The 1999 police report was made eight months before The Courier-Mail first revealed Lynch’s alleged abuse of students.

Other former students told The Courier-Mail they were considering withdrawing from the settlement process.

Mr Stack refused to comment on the 1999 police visit, saying he had never seen any proof the police had spoken to the deputy headmaster about abuse allegations.

Kevin Lynch committed suicide in 1997 after police charged him with sexual abuse of a student at St Paul’s.

 

Grammar told of sex suspicions

23/01/2003

A CONFIDENTIAL letter reveals Brisbane Grammar was informed of concerns about the behaviour of counsellor Kevin Lynch well before sex abuse allegations became public.

Court documents obtained by The Courier-Mail yesterday include a letter from the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane to Grammar headmaster Peter Lennox informing him of allegations of impropriety against Lynch.

The allegations were made by former and current students of St Paul’s School, where Lynch was employed after Grammar.

The letter is dated November 10, 1998, 18 months before a Courier-Mail report in which Grammar denied any knowledge of Lynch’s alleged sexual abuse of former students.

The letter, from diocese general manager Bernard Yorke, said St Paul’s had received a number of allegations from students since the suicide of Kevin Lynch in January 1997.

Mr Yorke wrote: “A parent of a boy making allegations against Mr Lynch has stated that she had ‘heard from friends who had been at Brisbane Grammar School that all may not have been well with Mr Lynch’s conduct there’.”

The letter says the parent questioned why St Paul’s had “failed to adequately screen the appointment of Mr Lynch prior to his appointment, particularly if there had been allegations of misconduct at Brisbane Grammar School”.

In an interview last week, Brisbane Grammar School board of trustees chairman Howard Stack said he did not believe the letter existed.

“I was chairman at that time and if you can produce anything like that I would be flabbergasted,” Mr Stack said.

In his response to the Diocese on November 17 1998, Dr Lennox said he questioned two senior staff members who were at the school when Lynch worked there. “They assure me that Kevin Lynch was regarded as a competent master and a well respected counsellor of both students and colleagues,” Dr Lennox wrote.

“They assert that they have no knowledge or even indication of any impropriety on Mr Lynch’s part while he was working here.”

The school took no further public action about the matter until a Courier-Mail report in May 2000.

The letters were attached to an affidavit Dr Lennox filed in the Supreme Court. Mr Stack and Dr Lennox were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Other documents obtained included an e-mail from former Grammar student Toby Simkin to Dr Lennox dated June 6, 2000, in which Mr Simkin alleged he informed school authorities in 1980 that he had been sexually molested by Kevin Lynch.

It is believed that claims relating to alleged sexual abuse that occurred after 1980 are stronger than claims relating to incidents before that year, because the school could have been expected to have some knowledge of the alleged abuses from that date.

Supreme Court searches have also revealed 28 of the 65 claimants have lodged a notice of discontinuance, indicating their claims have been settled or are in the process of being settled out of court.

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