Rosmini College sex abuse: Brother William Jackson touched boys inappropriately to help them hit the high notes during music lessons

An Auckland lawyer and former politician has come out in support of Rosmini sex abuse victim, saying he too was groped by brother William Jackson.

And, the school itself has been contacted by another former student who said they had a similar experience with Jackson, a music teacher at the Catholic school in Auckland during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Herald today revealed Jackson, who went on to become a priest but was later stripped of his title, doesn’t remember sexually abusing young boys but apologised for it anyway, saying he believes their accounts of what happened during private music lessons.

But, despite the apology and a police investigation, the 78-year-old who went on to become a priest won’t be held to account in New Zealand because he’s living in England and deemed too old.

One of Jackson’s victims, a man called Tim who received an apology and compensation from the Church, has gone public with his experience in the hope others who suffered in silence for several decades would be encouraged to come forward too.

READ MORE: Why former Catholic priest William Jackson won’t face charges in NZ
READ MORE: Rosmini College sex abuse victim: ‘This has haunted me for 45 years’

That has resulted in lawyer and former Waitemata Community Board Chairman Shale Chambers acknowledging he too was touched inappropriately by the music teacher, who had been sent to Rosmini after offending two years earlier in Tanzania.

“We thought Brother Willie Jackson the coolest dude, especially for a Rosminian cleric, he was young and very friendly and encouraging to the boys, especially those who could sing, as I could.”

“I was excited and honoured to be in his small choir. That was until we learned to be wary of him, and his choir lunch-time practices, then one day he suddenly disappeared.”

Police, who interviewed Jackson in England in 2018 after Tim came forward, are aware of at least four former students who described him sexually abusing them during private voice training lessons.

While Chambers, who has previously held senior roles with Vector, NZ Post, Metservice and Auckland Energy Consumer Trust, can’t remember having any private lessons with Jackson he does remember one inappropriate incident taking place.

“Jackson used to like us practising to hit high notes, and when we didn’t quite make it to his satisfaction I have a distinct memory – on at least one occasion – of him firmly grasping my testicles through short school pants and squeezing and proclaiming ‘higher, boy, higher’ before eventually releasing me when he was satisfied with the vocal result.”

“My experience clearly wasn’t as traumatic as some of the others, at least my memory doesn’t allow me to think that but you never quite know what you blocked out, but I don’t believe it was ever skin to skin.”

Chambers said he has endeavoured to make light of the incident over the years but had almost begun to doubt himself as time went on.

“I have been wondering where that name has been for 40-years since I have been there. It was affirming to my memory to see that name in black and white.”

While he wasn’t surprised to see today’s story in the Herald he was shocked to learn Jackson had never been, or would be, held to account. Nor would the Catholic Church.

“How such a man, a church and a school can let a known paedophile be ‘treated’ after similar abuse of boys in Tanzania, and be released back into another school remains beyond comprehension.”

The Church put Jackson through a course of psychotherapy after he abused boys in Tanzania. Two years later he was sent to New Zealand as a music and religious studies teacher.

He was sent back to England after the parents of two other victims complained about him in 1974.

Jeremy Ardley, another former Rosmini student, remembers being in Jackson’s music class during.

While he wasn’t abused he remembers Jackson leaving suddenly – and not being particularly surprised.

“The version we got was Br Jackson was accused of putting his hands down a boy’s pants. His explanation was that he was checking to see if the boy had underpants on.

“I remember not being particularly surprised, nor were my classmates.I did wonder in later years why he was never reported to the police and simply moved.”

Current Rosmini headmaster Nixon Cooper said he has received a lot supportive messages from colleagues, parents and old boys following the revelations about Jackson.

One of them came from a former student who said he had had a similar experience to Tim but didn’t not want to go to police or take it any further.

Cooper said the former student instead wanted to thank the school for “taking the abuse allegations seriously”.

“He said he felt he had not ‘suffered’ from it but had sympathy for those that had.”

Cooper said the college “strongly condemns any offending of this nature” and had supported Tim when he came forward.

He was confident the school had robust procedures to deal with any allegations that may arise in the future and would back any other student who came about historical abuse.

“The wellbeing of our students — current and past — remains our priority,” he said.

Tim spoke out about his experience after charges laid last month against seven former Dilworth School teaching staff in relation to historical sexual abuse.

He wanted people to know historical sexual abuse wasn’t isolated to Dilworth.

Father Chris Fuse, the Provincial Superior in Britain and NZ, said Jackson initially denied the Rosmini claims but has since acknowledged “such abusive touching and written his apology to these men”.

“He has been interviewed by police but never charged, given his age and degree of confusion.”

Fuse said the Church in Britain intervened when it learned of the New Zealand allegations and “removed from Jackson any exercise of ministry”.

He is now in a Rosminian retirement home in England and could not be reached for comment.

Where to get help:

• 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)
• Better Blokes which provides peer support throughout Auckland, including a specific Pacific group.
• 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.

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