The Southport School. Picture:y David Clark
The Southport School. Picture:y David Clark

Elite school faces sex abuse legal battle

THE Gold Coast's leading private boys' school is facing legal action from several former students for alleged physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

Shine Lawyers, which launched action against Brisbane schools during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, will act for former students at TSS.

Lisa Flynn, Shine Lawyers abuse law department national special counsel, said the alleged perpetrators at the school were male and female, and the complaints crossed several time periods.

"We are acting for a number of former boys and are presently speaking to others who have made contact with us," Ms Flynn told the Bulletin.

"From our experience in handling cases of this type, these few matters are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Southport School. Picture: David Clark
The Southport School. Picture: David Clark

"We say this in the context of other group actions that we have been involved with including claims against Brisbane Grammar School, St Paul's School, BBC, Churchie and a number of Catholic institutions.

"In all instances we started with one or a few inquiries and invariably there turned out to be an abundance of inquiries. For example, we have handled close to a hundred matters in BGS, scores of claims against St Paul's and BBC."

INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED AFTER ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE

Legal action follows a campaign by former TSS old boy Bill Edgar and contact by the Bulletin with alleged victims.

The Bulletin reported in April last year that police had launched an investigation into allegations of child abuse at the school from the late 1970s and early 1980s, sparked by a businessman speaking to TSS about a confession by his father, a retired teacher.

His father had allegedly told him: "I've done some bad things. I raped and molested (a student) while he was a boarder at the school. It wasn't just me. There were other teachers and other students".

Gold Coast private investigator Bill Edgar has been the face of a campaign against TSS where he was a student. Pic by David Clark
Gold Coast private investigator Bill Edgar has been the face of a campaign against TSS where he was a student. Pic by David Clark

In December last year, the Bulletin detailed allegations by a student who claimed he was subjected to years of sexual and physical abuse, starting when he was just 10 years old after being enrolled in the late 1990s.

In a complaint to the Royal Commission, the student alleged there was an "abusive group in the boarding house" and offences ranged from watching child pornography, including kissing, defecation, urination and bondage.

COAST HEADMASTER WROTE TO OLD BOYS URGING FOR HELP

A TSS spokesman urged anyone who was abused in an Anglican school in the diocese to report the matter to police and to go to the Anglican Diocese of Brisbane to receive the support, care and assistance they require.

He said the diocese provided survivors of abuse with free counselling sessions, plus $1500 to obtain initial legal advice.

"Child sexual abuse is a serious and heinous crime so if anyone has information, they should be reporting it to police for a full investigation," he said.

Mr Edgar said he could not confirm how many former students were taking legal action but he knows of at least six old boys from 1979 through to 2006 who have alleged abuse.

He said he was not involved in legal action because to obtain compensation he might be required to sign a disclosure preventing him making public his case.

Bill Edgar outside TSS. Picture: David Clark
Bill Edgar outside TSS. Picture: David Clark

Ms Flynn said lawyers were preparing to serve relevant notices of claim as required by Queensland's Personal Injuries Proceedings Act 2002 leading to compulsory mediation.

She said it was impossible to put a time frame on proceedings or likely compensation if civil claims were proved, but she hoped TSS would follow some other schools by dealing with matters in a "non-adversarial and sensitive manner".



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