Media release | 24 June 2021
“As early as the 1970s, Dilworth School knew vulnerable young boys in its care were being sexually abused by staff and others in positions of power, yet the School failed to stop the abuse from happening, allowing it to continue for over 30 years,” says Dilworth sexual abuse survivor Neil Harding.
“On numerous occasions Dilworth was made aware boys were being sexually abused and instead of providing protection, boys who complained were severely punished and silenced. The School also moved offenders on and actively sought suppression orders to protect the School’s reputation if the offenders were convicted for their crimes.”
Today, on behalf of all the survivors of sexual abuse at Dilworth, Neil Harding, and another claimant (known as HS to protect his identity), have filed a new class action complaint with the Human Rights Commission against Dilworth School for failing to protect all students in its care from the systematic sexual abuse that occurred there between 1970 and 2006.
“Dilworth is responsible for the immeasurable harm each and every boy suffered, and they need to be held to account for allowing the sexual abuse to continue happening and for cultivating an extremely harmful culture of silence and persecution which has traumatised survivors over many years,” said Mr Harding. “Over 100 boys have so far complained to the police they suffered sexual abuse at the School. Many of these boys were in their primary or intermediate years, some boys were sexually abused by more than one staff member.
Mr Harding adds “This is a new class action and we’re fortunate to have our highly experienced legal team, including top law firm Wilson Harle, assist us on a pro-bono basis with New Zealand’s leading litigation funder LPF Group paying all the expenses associated with taking the claim without charging any fees or seeking any profit for doing so.
Rachael Reed QC, together with Ali Van Ammers, who is heading the legal team representing the Dilworth survivors says “At the heart of this new legal claim is Dilworth’s accountability for their failure to protect the boys in their care. The School was responsible for caring and protecting vulnerable boys in our community, instead they permitted them to be sexually abused. We are seeking the significant compensation from Dilworth for all survivors. The School should be held responsible for the awful abuse of so many vulnerable young boys.
“Under the Human Rights Act 1993, the 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,” said Ms Reed.
Mr Harding adds “My experience of abuse at Dilworth is just the tip of the iceberg and many boys have shared their appalling experiences with me including how they were harshly punished when they sought help from the school. Dilworth must take responsibility for its role in allowing this systemic sexual abuse to happen over many years.”
Survivors and others with information regarding the school’s knowledge about the sexual abuse are encouraged to confidentially register to the class action via the website www.dilworthclassaction.co.nz.
For further information please contact Bronwynne Howse 0274 583 198
Notes to editors:
Dilworth Trust Board, trading as Dilworth School is a Registered Charity: CC32171.
The Dilworth Trust Board was established under the will of James Dilworth who died on 23 December 1894. Under the terms of the Will the Trustees are directed to maintain and educate boys from families of good character in "straitened circumstances" to enable them to become "good and useful members of society".
In recent years, Dilworth School recorded the following audited financial information:
Total Comprehensive Revenue & expenses for the year:
y/e 31 Jan 2018 $79,737,000
y/e 31 Jan 2019 $57,262,000
y/e 31 Jan 2020 $49,098,000
y/e 31 Jan 2018 $850,970,000
y/e 31 Jan 2019 $914,273,000
y/e 31 Jan 2020 $964,214,000