A barrister acting for former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth asked a child sex abuse victim to change his testimony to remove all references to her client, a royal commission has heard.
On Monday morning, a former St Paul’s School student, known only as BSG, told the child sex abuse royal commission Caroline Kirton QC approached his solicitor on the first day of hearings last week and asked him to make “significant” changes to his statement.
“I just think that’s terrible. That’s just outrageous, that someone of her calibre representing someone of his calibre, Hollingworth, would request me to change what I was saying or what I wanted to say to the commission in favour of them, that would remove his name entirely from my story.
“And I think that’s disgusting.”
Ms Kirton didn’t deny BSG’s claims when she briefly questioned him, nor did she comment when asked outside Brisbane Magistrates Court why the request was made.
Convicted paedophile music teacher Gregory Robert Knight was convicted in 2005 on more than 20 charges of indecently dealing with the boy during his time at the school in the early ’80s.
The former student, now a GP in his late 40s, named Hollingworth as a “key character” in his story, not through any abuse committed against him but because he was head of the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane at the time allegations were being made against Kevin Lynch, a paedophile school counsellor who taught at both St Paul’s and Brisbane Grammar School.
He said Dr Hollingworth promoted former St Paul’s headmaster Gilbert Case, the man who employed both Knight and paedophile Lynch at St Paul’s, while there were allegations of sex abuse at the school under his watch.
BSG said Dr Hollingworth’s statements about sex abuse victims also made him relevant to his story.
Dr Hollingworth resigned as Governor-General in 2003 over his handling of various child sex abuse complaints within the church.
He is due to give evidence before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse later this week as it continues to examine St Paul’s School.
The commission examined Brisbane Grammar School’s responses to Lynch in depth last week.
‘Bullied over relationship with paedophile’
Earlier in the day, BSG told the commission he was dismissed out of hand and had his scholarship threatened after he complained to Mr Case about his treatment by Knight.
He said he was regularly bullied by both teachers and students over his relationship with convicted paedophile Knight.
BSG said he was referred to as a “poofter”, “Knight’s bum chum” and “Knight’s lover” but when he spoke to Mr Case in 1984, when he was in Year 11, the headmaster instead told him he owed a “great debt of gratitude” to his abuser and threatened to have the student and his brother’s academic scholarships revoked.
“You need to be very careful making statements like that,” BSG alleged Mr Case said.
“You should never lie like that. You will ruin a man’s career if you tell lies like that.”
Mr Case’s lawyer put it to BSG this conversation never happened, which he denied.
BSG, a keen musician, told the commission the abuse left him feeling isolated, causing him to spend more time studying, reading and playing music.
“I found solace in the only person at the school who seemed to understand or like me – my abuser,” he said.
Knight was convicted of indecently dealing with the boy in 2005 but on Monday his solicitor indicated the former music teacher denied abusing BSG.
Before taking up his teaching post at St Paul’s in 1981 , a South Australian government investigation found him guilty of “improper and disgraceful conduct” towards students in his care at Willunga High School.
A police investigation couldn’t find enough evidence to prosecute him.
Knight was sacked but former SA education minister Dr Donald Hopgood later wrote to him rescinding his sacking and allowing him to resign, before writing him a positive reference.
The music teacher moved to Brisbane Boys College in 1980, where headmaster Graham Thomson became aware of allegations against him – including that he was teaching boys to arouse themselves and offering them showers in his flat – by October.
Mr Thomson accepted Knight’s resignation and the royal commission was expected to hear he told Mr Case he had concerns about the music teacher’s irregular conduct with boys.
After teaching at St Paul’s until 1984, Knight was again allowed to resign over sexual abuse allegations and Mr Case gave him a positive reference.
Knight moved to a school in the Northern Territory, where he was eventually convicted in 1994 of 15 counts of child sex offences.
The royal commission heard Knight’s abuse of BSG included “sexual education” through touching and masturbation and extended to “getting me drunk and drugging me in order to rape me”.
The former student also said he was bullied by a maths teacher who would force students to refer to him as “the faggot” or “the doormat”.
“Sometimes students would be made to simulate wiping dog shit from their shoes on me as I sat on the doormat and they entered the room,” he said.
The teacher was later dismissed from the school but BSG believed this was over bullying complaints made by Mr Case’s son, also a student, rather than what the teacher, whose name he couldn’t remember, did to him.
BSG told the royal commission he had almost died from drug addiction, attempted suicide multiple times, lost his wife and lost contact with his brother.