Teacher convicted for failing to report sexual abuse of a child

Teacher, Mr Webb of Trinity College Perth, was unsuccessful in his appeal against his conviction of failing to report sexual abuse of a child in a decision delivered on 13 October 2021.

In April 2017, a group of boys from the school went on a school rugby trip to Japan. Mr Webb was one of three teachers who accompanied the boys on the rugby trip.

On 11 April 2017, one of the boys, AB, was assaulted by a group of boys. In the course of the assault, the boys held AB down, removed his underwear and penetrated his anus with an object. AB later discovered that the object was a carrot. There was no contest at trial that AB was assaulted in the manner that he described.

Mr Webb did not report the incident in the form required by the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA). The incident was ultimately reported by the Acting Headmaster of the school.

The issue at trial was whether the appellant ‘believe[d] on reasonable grounds’ that AB had been the subject of sexual abuse. That is, whether Mr Webb had a subjective state of mind inclining towards assent to, rather than rejecting, the proposition that AB had been the subject of sexual abuse.

The Court found Mr Webb guilty of being a teacher who in the course of his work as a teacher formed the belief on reasonable grounds that a child had been the subject of sexual abuse, he failed to report that belief as soon as practicable after forming the belief, contrary to s 124B of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA).

His Honour entered a judgment of conviction, imposed a fine of $1,200 and made a spent conviction order.

On appeal the Court held that to the extent that Mr Webb teacher’s interview contained denials of the Mr Webb’s positive belief, those denials must be rejected in light of all of the circumstances. Those denials could not, when considered in light of all of the circumstances, give rise to a reasonable inference consistent with innocence. The learned magistrate was therefore correct to conclude that the only reasonable inference was that Mr Webb formed the requisite belief and that it was on reasonable grounds.

The case of Webb v Tang [2021] WASC 344 can be read in full here <https://jade.io/article/841410.

Bernard McAuley, Solicitor

McAuley Hawach Lawyers

11 Fennell Street, Parramatta NSW 2124

Telephone: (02) 9633 1826

Facsimile: (02) 9687 8114

Web: www.mcauleyhawach.com.au

Email: reception@mcauleyhawach.com.au

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