Dilworth asked chaplain to resign over inappropriate behaviour, police not called

Dilworth's former chaplin, Ross Douglas Browne, at an earlier appearance at the Auckland District Court.

David White/Stuff

Dilworth’s former chaplin, Ross Douglas Browne, at an earlier appearance at the Auckland District Court.

Dilworth School received complaints about its chaplain’s “over familiarity” with students but rather than calling in the police, the school asked him to resign.

Dilworth Trust chairman Aaron Snodgrass confirmed the school received complaints, or “concerns” as he puts it, from students, parents and fellow staff.

Ross Douglas Browne was jailed on Thursday for six-and-a-half years after earlier admitting historical sex charges relating to 14 boys committed over 15 years.

Dilworth headmaster Dan Reddiex and Trust board chairman Aaron Snodgrass.

RYAN ANDERSON/Stuff

Dilworth headmaster Dan Reddiex and Trust board chairman Aaron Snodgrass.

Browne used his position of power as the chaplain and religious eduction teacher to issolate vulnerable boys and sexually abuse them. Survivors told the court of having their lives ruined by alcohol, drugs, mental health problems, prison as well as failed relationships and jobs.

READ MORE:
* Dilworth School: Former chaplain groomed and sexually abused boys for 15 years
* Dilworth survivors want to be heard on school’s redress scheme
* Dilworth School: Former tutor admits historical sexual abuse charges

In a video to former students posted online, Snodgrass does not say when the complaints were received and how long Browne was allowed to go on teaching at the boarding school.

“We did not listen to their voices in the same way as we do today.”

He says Browne was stood down in late 2005 after former students made complaints about the Anglican priest’s behaviour in sex education class.

Court documents released to Stuff show that behaviour included encouraging boys to masturbate in class.

Dilworth School needs to lift the lid on who knew what, and when, writes Alison Mau.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Dilworth School needs to lift the lid on who knew what, and when, writes Alison Mau.

Snodgrass says there was an investigation and Browne was “asked to resign” the following year.

He says the school notified the Anglican Diocese, the New Zealand Teachers’ Council and NZ Scouts. Browne was also active in the Scouts, particularly producing Scout variety shows.

Snodgrass said the school did not notify the police.

Browne continued his involvement with the Scouts and worked as a minister of a church in Manurewa right up until his arrest.

“The school’s decision at the time was to treat concerns and complaints regarding Ross Browne as employment matters, without involving the police.

“What this process has made clear, is that our systems and procedures at that time for dealing with such complaints were insufficient and more stringent action should have been taken.”

Snodgrass apologised to the boys who were abused and said the school had failed its students and their parents.

He said the school was now looking to commission an “independent inquiry”.

Details of the inquiry are sketchy at present but Snodgrass says terms of reference are being drafted.

“We want to understand how, and why, the school failed in its duty to protect students from sexual abuse by members of staff.”

He said it will run alongside the school’s redress scheme, which he hopes will be launched in the first half of next year.

Ross Browne was also a reverend at St Luke's Anglican Church in Manurewa. (File photo)

Shane Wenzlick/Stuff

Ross Browne was also a reverend at St Luke’s Anglican Church in Manurewa. (File photo)

One survivor of Browne’s offending told the court that he was encouraged by Browne to have sex with underage boys at Dilworth. When he confided in the school counsellor, he was referred to a sex offender’s programme.

Stuff asked Dilworth what questions were asked and by whom following the admission.

Snodgrass did not answer the question but said he was appalled to hear the man’s statement and the investigation will look into matters such as this.

Stuff has asked Scouts NZ whether Browne was allowed to be alone with boys, and whether there were any complaints made against him. Stuff has also asked why Browne was allowed to continue his involvement with Scouts right up until 2019. So far there has been no response.

Rex McIntosh outside the Auckland District Court. (File photo)

David White/Stuff

Rex McIntosh outside the Auckland District Court. (File photo)

Anglican Auckland Bishop Ross Bay says the Anglican Church is conducting an “independent review of church processes” to determine how Browne was appointed a parish priest in Manurewa, following his departure from Dilworth.

Stuff has also contacted the Teaching Council to ask what happened with Browne’s teaching registration and whether the Council contacted the police and if not, why not. So far there has been no response.

Operation Beverly

Browne is one of 12 men arrested and charged with historical sexual offending at Dilworth as part of Operation Beverly. They face a total of 103 drugs and sexual abuse charges that date back as far as the 1970s and occurred as recently as the 2000s.

More than 200 people have spoken to police, and detectives have looked into former teachers, staff, school volunteers and leaders of the school’s Scout group.

Three of the accused – Keith William Dixon, Rex Clarence McIntosh and Richard Charles Galloway – have since died, after denying the historical sexual abuse allegations against them.

Former assistant principal Ian Robert Wilson has been sentenced to three years and seven months in jail after admitting offending.

The remaining men have denied the charges and are set to go to trial at the High Court.

Anyone with information can contact the Operation Beverly team on (09) 302 6624 or by emailing [email protected]

Where to get help for sexual violence:

  • Male Survivors Aotearoa Helplines across NZ, click to find out more.
  • Rape Crisis 0800 88 33 00, click link for local helplines.
  • Victim Support 0800 842 846, text 4334, webchat safetotalk.nz or email [email protected]
  • The Harbour Online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *