Frequently Asked Questions

We appreciate many of you may have questions about this class action complaint. If we have not answered your specific question below, please contact us and we will get one of our team to assist you.

What is the Dilworth Class Action complaint about?

The complaint has been made by Neil Harding and HS (whose name is suppressed) to the Human Rights Commission.  Neil and HS complain about the behaviour of the school in failing to protect all students who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of staff and others at Dilworth School in positions of power, which we currently understand to have occurred between 1970 and 2006.

 

The complaint seeks monetary compensation (known as “damages”) from the School for permitting their students to be subjected to sexual abuse. This abuse is a form of sexual harassment committed in the context of education – which is a prohibited form of discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993.

 

After the complaint is made, there is a dispute resolution process that is administered by the Human Rights Commission.  If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached through this process, Neil and HS, on behalf of all of the affected students, can bring a claim before the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

 

The availability and amount of compensation awarded is very fact specific.  The actual amount of recovery will be subject to the success of the claim, the amount of any settlement, if achieved, and the individual circumstances of your complaint. 

What if the abuse occurred before 1970 or after 2006?

Neil and HS (whose name is suppressed) have made their complaint on behalf of all Old Boys who were sexually abused at the School, irrespective of when. Our current understanding is that the sexual abuse at the school occurred between 1970 and 2006, however, this is not a closed range. We invite all survivors of the sexual abuse to register with us.

How does the class action complaint work?

This type of complaint is commonly known as a class action or representative action.  Neil Harding and HS (name suppressed) have complained about the School’s failure to protect former students at Dilworth School from sexual abuse between 1970 and 2006.  That means the complaint is made by them on behalf of all boys who suffered abuse during this time.  The intention is to obtain damages for as many survivors as possible.

How much compensation are you claiming?

The availability and amount of compensation awarded is very fact specific.  The actual amount of recovery will be subject to the success of the claim, the amount of any settlement, if achieved, and the individual circumstances of your complaint. 

 

Whilst Tribunals generally have a cap on the amount of damages they can award, the Human Rights Act specifically addresses this; the Human Rights Review Tribunal can refer the case to the High Court, where there is no monetary cap, for the granting of remedies. The case as a whole can also be removed to the High Court where the nature of the case means it would be in the public interest to elevate it.

 

The Human Rights Review Tribunal deals with all manner and forms of discrimination under the Human Rights Act.  The damages awards across these different situations have ranged from $4,500 through to $128,000 per claimant.  However, Dilworth’s breaches of the Human Rights Act are unprecedented; the breaches are significantly more serious and widespread than any other case previously considered by the Human Rights Review Tribunal.  The extent of the breaches, the School’s knowledge and the immeasurable harm suffered by the boys in its care means that we will be seeking compensation at a level above what has previously been awarded for other forms of discrimination.

 

At this point, we cannot be more specific about the level of damages expected to be recovered.  What we can say is that the damages recovered by each survivor will vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the abuse suffered.

 

We will discuss this further with you after you have registered and as the complaint progresses.

Can I see a copy of the complaint?

Complaints lodged in the Human Rights Commission are confidential.  Further, the complaint has been made by Neil Harding and HS.  It contains private and confidential information.  The complaint also refers to private and confidential information from other individuals who have agreed to include that information in the complaint. 

 

For these reasons, the complaint will not be publicly available.

If the claim is successful, how will you work out how compensation will be distributed?

An independent committee will be established to oversee the distribution of the compensation.

How large is the claim and how will you receive complaints?

Over 120 people have made complaints to the Police as part of Operation Beverley, the Police operation into sexual abuse at Dilworth School.  So far, 11 Dilworth staff members have been charged for offending against boys at the School between 1970 and 2006.  It is anticipated there may be more former students at Dilworth School who have not wished to come forward to date.  We therefore expect these numbers could grow.

 

For understandable privacy reasons, we are not entitled to know who has made complaints to Operation Beverly or to the School.  Many of the survivors who have engaged with Operation Beverly, or previously made complaints to the Police, also have name suppression.  Because of this, we ask that anyone who suffered sexual abuse at Dilworth School who wishes to be involved in the complaint about the conduct and how the School handled it register their complaint with us

Engaging with our team and the complaints process

If you decide to register your complaint with us, it will be treated as strictly confidential.

 

There is no obligation or pressure to proactively participate in the claim once you have registered your complaint.  We will guide you through each step of the process as it unfolds and invite you to be involved to the extent that feels right for you. 

 

Even if you know you do not wish to take part in this class action claim we encourage you to access the support services provided by Safe to Talk.  They are contactable 24/7 on 0800 044 334, or have a webchat function available on http://www.safetotalk.nz.

 

Please note registering your complaint does not make you a client of Wilson Harle or the barristers they have instructed.

Engagement with Dilworth and potential for settlement

Through the Human Rights Commission process, we are seeking to engage with Dilworth for the purposes of negotiating a fully funded but independently administered compensation scheme that would enable all survivors of abuse at the School to be properly compensated for the significant and long term impacts they have suffered. 


We will under no circumstances require you to have any interaction with the School or its representatives if you do not want to. 

Will my name be made public?

When registering your complaint with us, we will need to verify your identity, but you can choose whether you are then referred to by your name, just your initials or a pseudonym.  Any information you provide to us will be treated as strictly confidential and accessed only by the legal team and our advisers, unless you give express consent for it to be disclosed more broadly. 

Does the claim cover physical as well as sexual abuse?

No. The complaint relates to sexual abuse only. 

What will happen once I register my interest?

If you decide to register your complaint with us, you will need to complete the registration form on this website by clicking the link below. This will confirm that you are registered. 

 

You will receive an email from our team with more information about the class action complaint and seeking more information. There is no obligation or pressure to proactively participate in the claim once you have registered your complaint with us.  We will guide you through each step of the process as it unfolds and invite you to be involved to the extent that feels right for you. 

 

We encourage you to get in touch with us even if you know you do not wish to take part in this class action claim so that we can assist you to access support services. 

Will I need to share my experience with anyone to join the claim?

There is no obligation or pressure to proactively participate in the claim once you have registered your complaint with us. We will talk you through each step of the process as it unfolds and invite you to be involved to the extent that feels right for you. 

 

We encourage you to get in touch with us even if you know you do not wish to take part in this class action claim so that we can assist you to access support services. 

Who are the team behind the claim?

The Dilworth Class Action is being led by a highly regarded team who have extensive experience in litigation and have a deep understanding of the New Zealand legal and regulatory framework.

 

The team are acting on behalf of all the students who suffered abuse at Dilworth School on a pro-bono basis, paying for all the expenses associated with the legal action without seeking to recover any fees. 

More information about the team can be found on the Our Team page

How is this class action complaint different to the Royal Commission of Inquiry or Operation Beverly, the police investigation?

The Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions is inquiring into and reporting on the nature and extent of abuse that occurred in institutional care contexts between 1950 and 1999.  The Royal Commission has been undertaking investigations and listening to survivors’ experiences.  It can make public statements, issue reports and make recommendations as to how abuse can be prevented in the future and the steps that institutions should take to address the harm caused.  However, the Royal Commission does not have the power to determine the civil, criminal, or disciplinary liability of any person or to make compensatory awards.

 

For more information regarding the Royal Commission, visit https://www.abuseincare.org.nz/.

   

Operation Beverly is a Police investigation which seeks to identify and charge individual perpetrators of child sexual abuse at Dilworth for their crimes.  Convicted offenders will be sentenced and may face prison time.  However, they will not be required to pay compensatory damages to their victims.

 

The Police are encouraging anyone who has information that may assist their investigation or who wants to raise concerns with them to come forward. Please contact the Operation Beverly team directly on (09) 302 6624 or email Operation.Beverly@police.govt.nz.

This class action complaint is focused on Dilworth itself, rather than the individual perpetrators of sexual abuse.  Our primary aims are to hold Dilworth accountable for its failures to protect its students and to obtain meaningful compensation for survivors, either through settlement or a pursuant to a binding decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal or High Court. 

Why have you used the Human Rights Commission to file a complaint rather than the High Court?

Under the Human Rights Act 1993, the sexual abuse suffered by the Dilworth survivors is a form of sexual harassment committed in the context of education and is therefore a prohibited form of discrimination.  The legal team considers that a discrimination claim under the Human Rights Act provides the survivors with a pathway to recovering meaningful compensation.

Why is this class action feasible when other High Court claims might not be?

Other class actions proposed to be filed in the High Court have been constrained by the economics and commercial viability associated with legal and experts’ fees.

 

This complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal does not have those access to justice problems.  The team involved is focussed on Dilworth remedying its failures to protect its students and on obtaining the maximum compensation for survivors.      

 

The claim is well resourced by a committed team (see below) who are providing their services to assist survivors and not expecting them to meet that cost.  Any out of pocket costs are being funded by a New Zealand based litigation funder.

 

In short, the problematic economics and commercial considerations present in other claims do not arise here.

What if I witnessed abuse, but was not a victim myself – can I still be involved?

If you were not subject to sexual abuse you cannot be part of the class and will not be entitled to damages as part of this process.  However, if you witnessed abuse and how the School responded to it, we encourage you to also make contact.  Your experiences may be able to help those who suffered abuse and you may be able to access other support services should you want them.

How are you funding the legal action?

New Zealand’s leading litigation funder, LPF Group, are providing all necessary funding and are not charging any fees or making a profit for doing so. Our highly experienced legal team are working on a pro bono basis. 

We are very fortunate to have their support and their commitment has empowered us all to progress this claim to seek accountability from Dilworth and compensation for the victims.

Where can I get help?

Safe to Talk specialists are available to provide support 24/7 and are experienced in speaking with survivors of sexual abuse.  The specialists are trained and able to provide counselling services, or alternatively, are able to provide information on how to make an ACC claim.

 

They are contactable on 0800 044 334.

 

They also have a webchat function on their website whereby individuals are able to chat directly with a trained specialist.  The webchat function is accessible from the Safe to Talk homepage on:

 

http://www.safetotalk.nz/