7 Dec 2017

No memory of letter alleging abuse - headmaster says

2:36 pm on 7 December 2017

A former headmaster of Wanganui Collegiate has told a court he has no recollection of getting an anonymous letter making allegations about one of his teachers.

Exterior signage at the Manukau District Court

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Today Judge Richard McIlraith revoked name suppression for Trevor Gibbs, a former music teacher at Wanganui Collegiate, who is accused of sexually abusing one of his pupils over four years.

Mr Gibbs has denied charges in Manukau District Court of doing indecent acts on the boy and a charge of sodomy

Former headmaster Ian McKinnon told the court today he did not remember getting the letter containing the allegations.

The Crown said he had received the letter that alleged a pupil had been sexually abused by Mr Gibbs before Mr Mckinnon was headmaster.

But Mr McKinnon, giving evidence by audio-visual link, said had that been the case he would have treated it seriously and notified the board and his deputies.

He confirmed that years later, in 2006, he wrote a reference for Mr Gibbs at a time when the teacher faced charges relating to sexually abusing two boys in New Plymouth.

He said he believed Mr Gibbs was defending the matter.

Under cross-examination, Mr McKinnon said he was disturbed when Mr Gibbs pleaded guilty and he would not write a reference for him today.

Today the court has also heard from two former students of Mr Gibbs who say he never acted inappropriately with them.

Andrew London said he was in the school choir, taught by Mr Gibbs, and saw Mr Gibbs on a daily basis. He also spent a lot of time in the school's music block, playing piano, and students came and went frequently.

Guy Morris, whose evidence was read, said he was also in the choir and took piano lessons from Mr Gibbs.

Both said Mr Gibbs never acted inappropriately and there were no rumours that he ever had.

On Monday the jury heard evidence from the man who says he was abused.

He told the court he waited until both his parents were dead before coming forward because he didn't want them to feel guilty.

The man talked about living two lives.

He spoke of having a desire for normality in his life while being worried that someone would find out.

The man said he knew what was happening was wrong and tried to break it off several times.

He said Mr Gibbs would build up his confidence, telling him he was special.

The man said the sexual abuse would happen in Mr Gibbs' office, and at the teacher's home where he received one-on-one tuition.

Some of the sexual abuse also happened in the attic space above the Mr Gibbs' office - that required both the teacher and the student to climb onto a chair on the teacher's desk and pull themselves into the attic.

After finishing school, the man began a relationship with a woman and told her what had happened.

The man said he found out his girlfriend had written a letter to the school when Mr Gibbs' wife called him.

She asked if it was true and he confirmed there had been a relationship.

But he said he kept the whole thing secret from his parents - after speaking to a family member who was a lawyer - in order to protect them.

He said he was approached by police in 2015 and it was then that he told investigators what had happened.

Under cross-examination, he confirmed he did not tell anyone at the time the abuse was happening.

He also told Mr Gibbs' lawyer, Annabel Maxwell-Scott, that his silence played on his conscience, especially after hearing two other boys had been abused.

The court heard today how Mr Gibbs has been convicted for sexually abusing two other boys at another school.

The man also agreed that people came and went from some of the areas he said the sexual abuse was taking place but he and the teacher were never caught out.

He said there had been a meeting with the headmaster when he was asked directly if there was an inappropriate relationship.

The man said the questions were asked in the headmaster's office, in front of his mother, and he strenuously denied them.

He agreed he had continued to visit Mr Gibbs' home but said it was a strange mixture of being in a horrible situation but wanting normality.

Ms Maxwell-Scott asked the man if he was ashamed and angry about being a homosexual and blamed her client.

The man said that was not the case. He also said it was hard to know how being forced to have sex with an adult for four and a half years had influenced his life.

He accused the school of turning a blind-eye to the sexual abuse.

The trial continues.