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Australia No closure for Trinity schoolboy allegedly sexually abused by his mates on rugby school trip

03:00  17 october  2021
03:00  17 october  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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A student from an elite Catholic school was held face-down and sexually assaulted with a carrot on a school rugby trip , a court heard. The boy from Trinity College, in Perth , was then tormented in the months after the assault by his alleged attackers on social media. He also claimed the trip was rife with physical violence that resulted in hotel guests lodging noise complaints about the school group. Another student who gave evidence told the court he was threatened he would 'be the next' to get the carrot.

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a person standing in front of a window: The alleged sexual assault took place on a school trip to Japan. (Flickr: lukesaagi) © Provided by ABC NEWS The alleged sexual assault took place on a school trip to Japan. (Flickr: lukesaagi)

As one chapter appeared to close this week on the sorry tale of a schoolboy allegedly sexually abused by some of his Trinity College rugby teammates, one glaring injustice continues to stand out.

Warning: this story contains graphic content that some readers may find upsetting.

Few people, if anyone, dispute that the 2017 incident on a school trip to Japan occurred — but many years afterwards, those responsible have never faced criminal charges.

Even WA's Chief Justice Peter Quinlan this week acknowledged that the courts had heard no objection to evidence that the boy, who cannot be identified and is known as AB, was sexually assaulted without consent.

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When people who were never sexually abused experience orgasms, they feel good. They feel a release of tension and feel peaceful afterward. This is not the case with a person who has been sexually abused . The child feels shame, terror, and self-loathing as the sexual abuse is happening. The orgasm is a temporary reprieve from those feelings, but then those feelings come crashing down immediately afterward in spades. After the orgasm, the child is not lying in his bed feeling good about himself.

"A group of boys penetrated [AB] with a foreign object, against his wishes," he said in his judgement on a case related to the incident.

"There was no contest at trial, and in my view there is no doubt, that such behaviour amounted to 'sexual abuse'…"

One of the key reasons why the perpetrators have never been charged, despite the efforts of WA Police, is that the alleged incident happened in Japan.

Dr William Cleary, a law professor at Hiroshima Shudo University, said it could be difficult to prosecute in Japan.

He said complicating factors included the intricacies of Japanese law around the reporting of sexual assault and allegations against juveniles, as well as extradition agreements between Japan and Australia.

But while none of the alleged perpetrators has faced legal action over this incident or the cruel bullying of AB while on tour and for months after he returned home, other parties have.

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Two teachers from a prestigious Catholic boys school are found guilty of failing to report the suspected 'rape of a student by his classmates on a rugby trip to Japan'. They are believed to be the first people convicted for failing to report suspected child sexual abuse under mandatory reporting laws in Western Australia. Both teachers were informed that one of the students was allegedly sexually assaulted by some of his teammates at a hotel on the outskirts of Tokyo in April of 2017.

AB's mother left feeling 'sad and very angry'

Last year, Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA), which governs Christian Brothers schools like Trinity, settled a personal injury claim relating to the incident with AB's parents.

AB's mother said EREA tried to make them sign a non-disclosure agreement and "accepted 100 per cent liability".

But she said she was still sad and very angry, saying that the perpetrators were "now free to work as teachers, policemen and in other professions responsible for the care of children".

"I urge all parents to always question those who have contact with their children."

Two of the teachers who supervised the rugby trip — Ian Francis Hailes and Anthony Paul Webb — lost their jobs and became the first people convicted under WA's child sexual abuse mandatory reporting laws in the Perth Magistrates Court last year.

AB just wanted incident 'to go away'

AB gave evidence to this trial that he raised what had happened to him at a breakfast meeting at their Japanese hotel, telling his teammates "you know what went on".

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He also told the trial that when Mr Webb asked him if he wanted to do anything about it, he said "No. It's not a big deal. I just want it to go away".

Magistrate Evan Shackleton fined the two teachers $1,200 and gave them spent convictions, which was unsuccessfully appealed by Mr Webb and his barrister, former WA governor Malcolm McCusker.

Teacher's response would have once been 'not uncommon': Chief Justice

As Chief Justice Quinlan pointed out in his judgement of the appeal, attitudes and the law around children who tell adults they have been sexually assaulted have changed — and the people in their care have important responsibilities.

He said that while Mr Webb took "what he understood to be the proper moral response when faced with AB's desire not to take the matter further", he was not meeting his legal obligations to make a mandatory report.

Mr Webb had received mandatory reporting training the year before the rugby trip.

"Nevertheless, it does not take much historical awareness to recognise that a response such as that described by [Mr Webb] … would once have been not uncommon and genuinely, if mistakenly, regarded as appropriate," he said.

Mr Webb says he is disappointed in the decision.

"I will consider the findings and confer with my legal team, Nigams Legal, regarding next steps," he said.

Pending Mr Webb's decision, it appears fairly certain that there will be no new edition of this story in which the alleged perpetrators tell their side of the story to the courts.

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