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Royal Commission: Geelong Grammar covered up accused teacher's history -

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DAVID MARK: The Royal Commission has heard the Geelong Grammar School failed to tell a former student who'd been sexually abused at the school that it knew the accused teacher was a convicted paedophile.

Former principal Lister Hannah has given evidence the school was acting on legal advice when it initially told the former student it could find no record of the teacher even working at the school.

But he denied he was putting the school's financial interests ahead of the former student's welfare.

Samantha Donovan is following the royal commission hearings in Melbourne and joins me now.

So Sam what did this former student tell the commission happened to him while he was at Geelong Grammar?

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: David, the Commission has heard that this former student who is known to the Commission as BIR alleged he was sexually assaulted by a teacher known to the Commission as BIM at the schools Junior Campus, Glamorgan in 1980.

And that BIR went to the school in 1997 not wanting, we heard, a witch hunt, but wanting the school to acknowledge the abuse occurred and acknowledge the abuse occurred and take some responsibility for it.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: Mr Hannah, you had been given information by the time of the meeting on 15 August to the effect that BIM was a convicted paedophile. That is the likely position do you agree?

LISTER HANNAH: About that particular meeting, I cannot remember the exact understanding that I came into. As I said, it's a possibility.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: You had been given information by the time of this meeting that BIM had been sacked in or around 1974, correct?

LISTER HANNAH: Yes.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: You didn't reveal that information to BIR at this meeting did you?

LISTER HANNAH: No.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: You made a decision and you say, on the basis of legal advice, to keep that disclosure from BIR correct?

LISTER HANNAH: At that point, yes.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: At that point in time yes.

LISTER HANNAH: I think we were following legal advice limited disclosure we kept it to limited disclosure.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: Does that mean that the schools financial interests were now at stake in that the school might have to pay BIR money because of what happened to him?

LISTER HANNAH: Yes. And it was no, from my recall, there was no resistance to that.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: Did it occur to you that what might actually be doing was preferring the school's financial or commercial interests to BIR's welfare?

LISTER HANNAH: No.

COMMISSION OFFICIAL: Do you think it should have occurred to you?

LISTER HANNAH: I believed that that element would be resolved at a later time.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: And that's the former principal of Geelong Grammar Lister Hannah giving evidence to the royal commission this morning David.

And just to back track a bit, we'd been hearing evidence that the head of the Glamorgan Campus Phillipa Beeson told Lister Hannah that the school needed to be careful about its handling of BIR's complaint.

In a fax she said on legal advice the school needed to show a lot of concern and clucking to the victim, but admit nothing. And, the commission has heard that, by the time the principal Lister Hannah and other school representatives started meeting with the victim, they knew that the accused teacher had been sacked by the school at one stage, then reemployed.

And then as we heard in that extract from the commission this morning, they knew that that accused teacher had in fact been convicted on paedophilia charges.

DAVID MARK: Now Sam, the commission heard yesterday that another former principal Nicholas Sampson didn't report another abuse complaint in 2004 to police, and instead paid an accused teacher a year's salary and gave him a glowing reference. Now Mr Sampson is now the head of the prestigious Sydney School Cranbrook.

When's the commission going to hear from him?

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Well it's expected Nicholas Sampson will give evidence to the royal commission tomorrow.

He sent a message to members of the Cranbrook community last night after the coverage some of the evidence that the commission got yesterday, and Mr Sampson told the community he can't say much to them at the moment about these allegations, because of the commission proceedings, but is intending to give the school community the facts about those matters when he's in a position to do so.

But in that message to the Cranbrook community he's assured them that the safety of children in his care has always been his paramount consideration.

DAVID MARK: Samantha Donovan is covering the royal commission in Melbourne.