A former principal never reported sex abuse complaints against a teacher to police because he was told not to compromise the bishop.
A Catholic principal didn’t trust or like a pedophile teacher, but never reported child sex abuse complaints against him to police because he did not want to compromise the bishop.
Terence Hayes, who currently works as a year seven teacher, was principal of a Queensland primary in 2007 and 2008 when serious child sex abuse complaints were made against teacher Gerard Byrnes.
But Mr Hayes says he never reported any allegations to police, as the school’s child protection manual and state laws required, because he was always told to go to his superiors first.
“In the Catholic system, principals are not autonomous. We are virtually middle managers. So as, per the advice that had been given to me, we were constantly told we can never do anything without going to the office and getting advice of our superiors,” he told a hearing of the Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Brisbane on Tuesday.
“Principals were of the understanding that CEO (Catholic Education Office) was the first port of call, and that the bishop must not be compromised.”
Counsel Assisting Andrew Naylor SC asked the former principal why the school’s child protection manual existed if it wasn’t being followed.
“That’s a question for my superiors, but we were told by our superiors to `come to us, we would help you, we are the first port of call, we work together’,” Mr Hayes replied.
Mr Hayes said after the first sex abuse complaints against Byrnes were made, he didn’t tell Byrnes that any action would be taken because he wanted to keep an eye on Byrnes secretly.
“I didn’t trust him. I didn’t like him. He was a very difficult person on staff. I didn’t enjoy the guy on staff,” Mr Hayes said.
But Byrnes wasn’t stood down as a student protection officer at the school up until he resigned in June 2008.
He was then rehired as a relief teacher one month later.
Mr Naylor asked if Mr Hayes had made his opinion about Byrnes known to superiors before he was rehired.
“I’m a very system-orientated person and it’s not for me to make a judgment on that information,” Mr Hayes said.
Mr Naylor then asked if he had felt comfortable about the CEO making a decision to let Byrnes come back to his school and teach children.
“If the system had said yes, I’m comfortable,” Mr Hayes replied.
Byrnes’ employment at the school only ceased when he was finally arrested by police in November 2008.
He pleaded guilty to 44 child sex abuse charges, including 10 of rape, and was sentenced to 10 years jail in 2010.
The hearing is set to continue on Wednesday.