Hostel sex abuse inquiry to target 11 people
29th June 2012
Updated 2nd July 2012
A total of 11 people will have adverse findings recommended against them for their failure to properly investigate allegations that Dennis McKenna was sexually abusing boys at a state-run hostel in Katanning for 14 years.
A special inquiry examining how McKenna - who is serving his second jail term for abusing 11 students - and staff at other hostels in regional WA were able to continue their offending for so long will conclude today.
Following four months of hearings, counsel assisting the inquiry, Phil Urquhart, said a total of 24 adverse findings would be recommended against 11 people.
Yesterday he listed five adverse finding recommendations against the head of the Country High School Hostels Authority, Colin Philpott, who oversaw student hostels across regional WA between 1976 and 1999.
A former Katanning Senior High School principal (1988-1990) Ian Murray, and two former hostel board chairmen, Keith Stephens and Alan Herbert Parks, also have been implicated.
Today, Mr Urquhart recommended an adverse finding against the sergeant of Katanning Police Station during the mid-1980s, Bill Todd, who he alleged failed to act on information reported to him that McKenna have been sexually abusing boys.
The now-Inspector's inaction led to others in the community also ignoring concerns about McKenna, Mr Urquhart said.
A leader of the government youth employment program Westrek, Maggie Dawkins, claims she raised the matter with Mr Todd in 1985.
No record of such a conversation or complaint was ever made in police records.
Mr Todd told the inquiry no one had raised the matter with him and he had never heard rumours that McKenna was sexually abusing students.
"Had anyone have come to me with this matter ... we would have responded straight away," Mr Todd said during his evidence.
Mr Urquhart said there was supporting evidence to prove Ms Dawkins' claim that she raised the matter with the police officer and recommended the inquiry make an adverse finding against Mr Todd.
"Mr Todd's inaction did have a flow-on effect," Mr Urquhart said.
Westrek manager Peter Sherlock told the inquiry that when Ms Dawkins raised her concern with him he didn't take action because he knew she also had told Mr Todd and therefore concluded that it was "in the hands of the appropriate authorities" to investigate.
The inquiry has heard Ms Dawkins attempted to raise her concerns with not only Mr Todd, but Katanning councillor Ainslie Evans and four of her superiors at the Westrek program, including Mr Sherlock.
Mr Urquhart said Councillor Evans, who was also a Westrek community liaison officer, dismissed Ms Dawkins when she sought her help to investigate concerns about McKenna.
"Councillor Evans down right refused to raise those allegations with anyone else, let alone have them investigated," Mr Urquhart said.
The inquiry heard Councillor Evans was more concerned with the economic benefits of the hostel to Katanning and because McKenna "epitomised" the hostel she believed it was under threat if he wasn't part of it.
In a second adverse finding recommendation, Mr Urquhart said Councillor Evans told a barmaid who also attempted to raise concerns about McKenna: "Look, I've heard, I don't want to keep on hearing it. Everything is fine."
Adverse finding recommendations also were made against Elizabeth Stroud, a supervisor of a state-run education program, Westrek.
Ms Stroud gave inconsistent evidence during the inquiry and incorrectly claimed that Westrek leader Maggie Dawkins was forced out of Katanning solely because of her behaviour and not because she had complained that McKenna was committing sexual abuse, Mr Urquhart said.
Mrs Stroud later conceded that although McKenna's sexual interference with students was raised in an initial conversation with Ms Dawkins, she denied knowing at the time that Ms Dawkins' complaint against McKenna played a significant part in her transfer to Bunbury.
No adverse findings were recommended against the three other Westrek employees who Ms Dawkins complained to.
The inquiry has heard 39 days of evidence since February 20.
Former Supreme Court justice Peter Blaxell is expected to make his findings by July 18.