#childsafety | Dilworth School investigation: Manurewa vicar Ross Browne resigns following sexual abuse charges

An Anglican priest charged in connection with the historical sexual abuse allegations at Dilworth School has resigned from his position at a South Auckland church.

Former Dilworth Chaplain Ross Douglas Browne was the vicar of St Luke’s Church in Manurewa when police arrested him last month.

The 72-year-old priest, who was also heavily involved in Scouts and amateur theatrical company the Auckland Gang Show, is accused of indecently assaulting three boys between 1991 and 2002.

Anglican Bishop of Auckland Ross Bay said he was distressed about allegations of historical abuse at Dilworth School and expressed his concern for “those who are the survivors of that abuse”.

His comments came after Browne dropped his bid for name suppression at a hearing in the Auckland District Court this morning.

“At the time of the recent police investigation Mr Browne held the position of Vicar of Manurewa Parish. Advice was taken on how to safeguard the community during the investigation.

“Once the charges were confirmed Mr Browne was suspended from his duties immediately and has subsequently resigned his position.”

Bay said the church took abuse allegations very seriously and has co-operated fully with police during the course of the investigation, and will continue to do so.

That investigation, which started about 15 months ago, resulted in seven former Dilworth teaching staff being charged with a number of serious offences following allegations of historical sexual abuse.

The charges collectively relate to offending against 17 boys between the 1970s and late 2000s.

Ross Browne leaving the Auckland District Court today. Photo / Michael Craig
Ross Browne leaving the Auckland District Court today. Photo / Michael Craig

Reverend Browne was Dilworth’s chaplain from 1979 until 2006 when he resigned from the private boarding school.

Along with the church Browne had a strong interest in drama and Scouts – he became an assistant Scout director in the late 1960s.

In the early 1970s he also became the founding director and producer of the Auckland Gang Show, an amateur theatrical performance where the cast is made up of young people involved in Scouts and Guides.

Scouts chief executive Joshua Tabor said Browne was no longer involved in Scouts and support was now being offered to the Gang Show community.

“We can confirm that Mr Browne, the Dilworth School Chaplain, was also the long serving director of the Auckland Central Gang Show, a biannual Scout & Guide related musical theatre production. Mr Browne served in the role for 50 years until 2019,” he said.

“The Auckland Central Gang Show community is devastated by the allegations and is being supported by Scouts New Zealand.”

Tabor said police have been in contact with Scouts NZ about the Dilworth allegations and the organisation was “co-operating with the investigation”.

Two of the other seven men who have been charged, Ian Wilson and Alister Harlow, ran the Scout group at Dilworth but Tabor said they haven’t had any involvement in the organisation since the 1990s.

In a letter sent to volunteers, parents and caregivers Tabor said both the Dilworth Scout Group and Auckland Gang Show communities were devastated by the news of the allegations.

“While at this time, the Police have not shared any information with us regarding allegations of offending during scouting activities or the Gang Show, we are working to support the young people, parents and volunteers where these men worked.”

He said Scouts NZ’s number one priority was providing a safe environment for young people and an environment that parents can trust.

“Scouts New Zealand has a robust Child Safety Policy, which is updated regularly to ensure it remains best practice. Our policy includes protections such as zero tolerance for any doubtful behaviour, and no leader is allowed to be alone with a young person.”

Four other men facing charges relating to the Dilworth investigation have been granted interim name suppression. All seven men will reappear in court next month.

Seven men are facing charges following allegations of historical sexual offending at Dilworth School in Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell
Seven men are facing charges following allegations of historical sexual offending at Dilworth School in Auckland. Photo / Dean Purcell

THE DILWORTH ACCUSED

ROSS BROWNE:

The 72-year-old Manurewa man is facing four charges.

• Indecently assaulted a boy under 16 between Jan 1 1991 – Dec 31 1991

• Induced a boy under 12 to do an indecent act on him between January 1 1994 and December 31 1994,

• Indecently assault a boy under 16 between January 1 1996 – December 31 1997

• Indecently assaulted a boy under 16 between January 1 2002 – December 31 2002

ALISTER HARLOW:

The 60-year-old Hillsborough accountant faces one charge of indecently assaulting a boy over the age of 16 in 1990.

IAN WILSON:

The 69-year-old Maraetai man, who didn’t have an occupation listed on his charge sheets, is facing two charges.

• Indecently assaulting a boy under the age of 16 on 12 different occasions between 1979 and 1982.

• Inducing a different boy aged under 16 to do an indecent act on him in 1977.

FOUR MEN WITH NAME SUPPRESSION:

• A 78-year-old is facing three charges of indecent assault, relating to two boys.

• A 69-year-old is facing one charge of indecent assault.

• A 72-year-old is facing four charges of indecent assault, relating to three boys.

• A 73-year-old is facing 10 charges including indecent assault, sexual violation and supplying drugs to boys between 1985 and 2008. They are in relation to offences that allegedly occurred in Auckland and Hamilton.

Alister Harlow is one of seven men facing charges related to historical offending at Dilworth School. Photo / File
Alister Harlow is one of seven men facing charges related to historical offending at Dilworth School. Photo / File

Editor’s note

It has been a shock for New Zealanders to learn that several former staff at Auckland’s Dilworth School have been charged with sex and drug offences against boys over more than three decades. We want you, our readers, to know that the Herald will follow this story wherever it leads. We have a team of journalists prepared to investigate and we want to hear from you. If you have any information please contact us at yourstory@nzme.co.nz

Murray Kirkness
NZ Herald Editor

Where to get help:

• If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
• Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand – find your closest one here.
• Mosaic – Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am – 8pm)
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.


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