Warning: This article deals with sexual abuse allegations. Helplines can be found at the bottom of the page.
The chaplain of a prestigious Auckland school is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a pupil in an Australian chapel then telling the boy God would punish him if he told anyone about the abuse.
The Herald revealed this week that King’s School chaplain Father John Goodwin had taken leave after historical sexual allegations surfaced linked to his time at an exclusive Anglican boys’ school in Tasmania.
Goodwin “emphatically denies” the allegations and has indicated he will co-operate fully with the Australian court proceedings.
A former student of Hutchins School has filed a writ with the Supreme Court of Tasmania seeking damages for the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of Goodwin 20 years ago.
The Herald has obtained copies of the documents, including a statement of claim.
They show the former pupil, now in his 30s, is suing the Christ College Trust and the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania for negligence and breach of duty.
The plaintiff claims he was groomed then sexually abused by Goodwin, in his capacity as school chaplain and priest, over a two-week period at lunchtimes in the school chapel.
The documents claim Goodwin’s position gave him “the ability to achieve intimacy with the plaintiff” after allegedly grooming the boy for several months.
It’s alleged Goodwin complimented the boy on his looks and hair, telling him that with Goodwin’s help the boy would get better religious grades, make his parents proud and help him become a lawyer.
The documents claim Goodwin then repeatedly sexually abused the boy during chapel visits.
On one occasion, Goodwin is alleged to have massaged the boy’s shoulders and told him his bottom looked good in shorts before assaulting him.
Goodwin allegedly instructed the boy to “read prayers about love and sin aloud while Goodwin told the plaintiff God loved him” while simultaneously molesting him, the court documents claim.
When the boy resisted, Goodwin allegedly said God was testing the youngster.
It’s alleged Goodwin warned the boy the next day that if he told anyone about the abuse God would punish him and his family.
The documents also claim the boy was abused after Goodwin told him to try on altar boy clothes while naked “as he was required to be stripped of sins”.
Afterwards Goodwin allegedly repeated that God would punish the boy and he would not be believed if he told anyone about the abuse.
Plaintiff 'suffered injury'
Lawyers representing the former pupil say he suffered injury due to Goodwin’s alleged abuse, and the respondents’ alleged negligence.
The respondents are accused of failing to take reasonable steps to protect the former pupil from harm, including the failure to place restrictions on Goodwin’s contact with minors, properly vet priests or provide adequate supervision.
The documents also allege a “failing to take seriously or investigate rumors, suspicion and knowledge” of sexual abuse allegations involving minors.
As a result, the former pupil had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and suicidal ideation, the documents claim.
He is seeking compensation for medical and treatment costs, as well as lost earning, plus exemplary and aggravated damages.
In a statement, New Zealand’s Education Ministry deputy secretary Katrina Casey said officials here were not aware of this matter but had contacted King’s School to offer support.
“Every school must have a child protection policy in place and must meet their obligations under the Children’s Act.”
After being contacted by the Herald, the Teaching Council said the matter had been “brought to our attention”. The council was in the early stages of considering the matter and determining its next steps.
A New Zealand police spokesman confirmed the matter was under investigation by Australian authorities. He would not comment on whether New Zealand police were also involved.
Allegations 'strongly' denied
In a statement, Hutchins School headmaster Rob McEwan said the matter was immediately referred to police when the school received a civil writ from a former student claiming damages for sexual abuse.
“Child sexual abuse is an abhorrent crime and the school takes all matters of alleged sexual abuse seriously.
“The safety and protection of all students is our highest priority and … we have the highest standard of protection for the students in our care.”
A letter from Hutchins School confirming receipt of the writ, obtained by Australian media, said the school had “no previous knowledge” of the allegations.
“While we aim for openness and transparency in our communications, the claim is yet to be investigated and as such I am unable to provide any additional information other than that we understand the then-chaplain strongly denies all allegations,” McEwan said.
Tasmanian police said they were notified on Wednesday of an alleged historical assault involving a former staff member of a local school.
No formal complaint had been received.
“Tasmania Police encourages any victim or witness of criminal activity to make a formal report to police who will assess the information and progress the matter appropriately.”
King’s School headmaster Rob Sissons said Goodwin “emphatically denies the allegations”.
Goodwin had taken a period of leave “by mutual agreement” till the matter was resolved and would no longer be living on the school grounds.
The school had taken “swift and appropriate action” once it learned of the claims, Sissons said. The health and wellbeing of King’s students remained the school’s focus.
Anglican Bishop of Auckland Ross Bay told the Herald Goodwin was stood down from all duties.
Goodwin, King’s School and the church would co-operate fully with the Australian proceedings.
Where to get help:
• If it’s an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you’ve ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
• Male Survivors Aotearoa offers a range of confidential support at centres across New Zealand – find your closest one here.
• Mosaic – Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am – 8pm)
• If you have been abused, remember it’s not your fault.
WHERE TO GET HELP
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
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