Education Minister Grace Portolesi names convicted school sex abuse teacher Barry Douglas Wright
The Education Minister has named a teacher who was convicted of child abuse, who worked at two metropolitan
schools where neither school community was told about his actions.
Barry Douglas Wright was convicted in July last year and received a 12-month jail term over child abuse charges
relating to events in 2009 while he worked at an Adelaide high school.
Wright, 61, of Seacombe Gardens, was already serving a 12-month jail sentence with a five-month non-parole
period for engaging in underage sex with another student at another high school in 2007.
He had faced trial after pleading not guilty to five charges, including three counts of rape.
In the second case, he pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and one aggravated count
of possessing child pornography between August and December, 2009.
In District Court sentencing submissions, the court heard his 16-year-old victim in that case had initially depended
on Wright for emotional support.
In her victim impact statement, she admitted she had a drug problem and would "take some drugs and chill out" with
Wright before the relationship became sexual.
"He seemed innocent, very trustworthy, as though he was going to help me, not harm me," she said.
"I craved attention ... I was a bit lost and scared. Barry was giving me that love and I know now that was
the wrong kind."
The victim said once the relationship with Wright became sexual, she became more drug-dependent.
Education Minister Grace Portolesi last night released a statement naming Wright, but not the schools at which he
worked. adelaidenow cannot identify the schools for legal reasons.
However, one of the school's governing councils yesterday posted a statement on its website about Wright - almost
12 months after his first conviction and three years after it first learnt of his behaviour.
It said immediate steps were taken to alert the Education Department, police and the victim's family when Wright's
activities "came to the attention of the school leadership in 2009".
"The School alerted the families of other students indirectly involved and provided support and
counselling for all." it says.
"At all times, (the school's) leadership team acted with concern for the student as its top priority,
and in accordance with policies in place at the time.
"Although protecting the privacy of the student involved is paramount, I am able to say that that the
student involved is not a current student."
Ms Portolesi said in her statement that the Education Department had decided it would now be appropriate
to inform the two school communities about Wright.
Parents at both schools will now receive letters informing them of his convictions.
Opposition education spokesman David Pisoni said Ms Portolesi had "given nothing voluntarily" in relation
to the cases.
"Every bit of information thats been made public about these sex offences has had to be squeezed out of the
education Minister," he said.
Earlier, AdelaideNow revealed the governing council at one of the schools where Wright worked had released
a statement saying it alerted the Education Department, police and some parents at the time it became aware
of the allegations against him, despite the Education Minister saying parents had not been told.
Last Friday, Education Minister Grace Portolesi revealed there were at least three serious sexual incidents
in Adelaide schools where parents had not been notified, including a 2009 case.
Earlier this week, in relation to the 2009 matter, she said, "given the lapse of time ... confirmation of the
families to whom notification should be made, is being finalised".
The governing council's statement says allegations against a male teacher came to the school's attention in
2009 and "immediate steps were taken to alert the Education Department's head office, police and the family
of the student involved to ensure the safety of the student".
The statement, which names the teacher, also reveals the school "alerted the families of other students
indirectly involved and provided support and counselling for all" - which appears to contradict the Minister.
In February last year, adelaidenow reported that a teacher of the same name had been ordered to stand trial,
after having pleaded not guilty to five sex charges.
The teacher pleaded not guilty to five charges, including three counts of rape.
It was reported the alleged offences occurred between August and December 2009 and that the alleged
perpetrator was the victim's teacher at the time.
The governing council says the student no longer attends the school.
"Any incidence of child abuse is obviously extremely disturbing and is taken very seriously by the
Adelaide high school community," the statement says.
It comes as the governing council of a different Adelaide high school - where a teacher was arrested
in May for child sex offences - has backed its principal for not notifying parents for seven months,
saying there was minimal risk to other students.
The chairman of the governing council has published a statement on the school's website today.
It says the teacher was suspended from duty immediately after being arrested in May so "any potential
risk to the children at the school in relation to the alleged offending was minimised".
Parents were not told of the incident until last Friday, when Education Minister Grace Portolesi
revealed at least three instances where parents had not been notified of serious sexual incidents
in Adelaide schools.
The governing council statement said it also was told about the case for the first time by the
school's principal last Friday.
The statement attributes the seven month delay in telling parents to "extenuating circumstances".
"The extenuating circumstances have been explained to the chairperson of the governing council and
will remain confidential in the interests of child wellbeing," it says.
The chairman says the governing council was notified of a police investigation arising from the May
arrest by the principal last Friday.
"As the matter is before the courts and procedural fairness must be observed, it would be inappropriate
for the governing council to comment further about the alleged offences," he says.
The delays in the notification of the child sex offending cases at schools are being investigated by a
former Supreme Court judge, Bruce Debelle.
The State Government asked Mr Debelle to begin the inquiry early last month following revelations parents
were not told a student attending a north-western suburbs out-of-school-hours care program was raped in late 2010.
Last week Ms Portolesi revealed there were at least three other similar cases in schools where charges
had been laid but parents not told.
This prompted Opposition calls for Mr Debelle's inquiry to be widened.
In a statement Mr Debelle yesterday said he had been investigating other cases in addition to the 2010
incident and this was possible under the original terms of reference.
Ms Portolesi and Premier Jay Weatherill have maintained that the terms of reference were broad enough to
allow Mr Debelle to consider other cases in making recommendations.
However, the Opposition and Law Society of SA said the terms of reference were specific to one case.
In his statement, Mr Debelle said it was possible to investigate other matters "to the extent that they
fall within the second paragraph of the inquiry's terms of reference".
"In the course of its investigations this inquiry has ascertained that there were other instances where
allegations have been made of sexual misconduct by a member of the staff of a school or a member of the
out-of-school-hours care staff," he writes.
"The inquiry decided it was necessary and relevant to examine whether disclosure had been made to parents
and, if not, the reasons relating to the non-disclosure.
"These investigations had begun before the Minister of Education and Child Development answered questions
at a press conference concerning the non-disclosure of alleged sexual offending at three schools in
The terms of reference guiding Mr Debelle's inquiry, which is due to be completed early next year, are:
"To undertake an independent review in relation to the events and circumstances surrounding the non-disclosure
to the school community of allegations of sexual assault committed by the Director of the Out of School Hours
Care service at (a school) against a child in his care in 2010.
The review should consider the actions of all relevant agencies, and make recommendations relating to the actions
of the parties involved and the procedures and processes that should be in place in these circumstances."
adelaidenow yesterday reported how the eastern suburbs high school took seven months to send a letter to parents
about the arrest of a teacher for alleged child sex offences.
And a letter sent to parents at the school about the case leaves open the possibility that the teacher could
return to duty pending the outcome of a court case.
It emerged last week that parents had not been told about the arrest of a teacher at an eastern suburbs high
school in May this year.
The letter to parents, signed by the principal and seen by The Advertiser, was sent last Friday - seven months
after the teacher was arrested and suspended.
The letter does not name the teacher but says the teacher had "been charged with criminal offences of a sexual
nature" which "relate to alleged offending against a minor".
"It has been determined that you are are a parent/caregiver who has a proper interest in being provided with
such information as I am able to provide, to enable you to understand the circumstances," the letter says.
"The charges relate to alleged offending against a minor."
It says the teacher was immediately suspended from duty following the arrest.
"I assure you that the teacher will not be returned to duty until the facts have been determined in the court
processes, and unless it is safe to do so," the principal writes.
The letter also warns parents against speaking about the case online or to the media.
"There are laws that prohibit publication by the media or on the Internet by any person of details of the
person charged or other details which may identify the alleged victim," it says.
"Please respect the sensitivity of this incident for the students and families involved by referring any
concerns or questions to me directly at the school."
The letter then provides details of support services available to concerned parents and students, including
those who had experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour.
A department spokesman said legal advice was sought "on the precise wording" of the letter.
The Advertiser requested a copy of the critical incident report filed by the school about the arrest of the
teacher but the spokesman said the department was seeking legal advice on its release because it involves a
case still before the court.
In the past week Ms Portolesi has revealed there were at least four incidents of a serious sexual nature
which had occurred at schools since 2009 about which parents were not told at the time they occurred.
In an issues paper, Mr Debelle has suggested schools could name teachers charged with offences when notifying
parents, but this was not done in the latest letter.
The department spokesman said Mr Debelle's issues paper was not final and the department would "await the
formal recommendations' of his report.
'Thought he'd help me, not harm me' says victim of paedophile teacher Barry Douglas Wright
A victim of paedophile
Barry Douglas Wright
thought he would "help me, not harm me", a court has heard.
Wright, 60, a former teacher, is already serving a 12-month sentence for engaging in underage sex with another student.
He has since pleaded guilty to two further counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and one aggravated count of possessing child pornography, which happened about the same time as his earlier offences.
In District Court sentencing submissions yesterday, the court heard his victim, 16, had initially depended on Wright for emotional support.
In her victim impact statement, she admitted she had a drug problem and would "take some drugs and chill out" with Wright before the relationship became sexual.
"He seemed innocent, very trustworthy, as though he was going to help me, not harm me," she said. "I craved attention ... I was a bit lost and scared. Barry was giving me that love and I know now that was the wrong kind."
The victim said once the relationship became sexual, she became more drug-dependent.
Nicholas Healy, for Wright, said his client's behaviour was not a "typical type of predatory behaviour" because the victim had sought out Wright.
"Mr Wright was continually offering his assistance in relation to (the victim)," he said. "(She) was a teenage girl who was always seeking out Mr Wright, not vice versa. He acknowledged that he's been very, very foolish."
The pornography charges related to material on Wright's phone involving a third victim, which Mr Healy said was put on a DVD to give to the subject of the images. That explanation was rejected by the Crown, which said it was for prurient purposes.
In January, Wright was sentenced to a year in jail, with a five-month non-parole period, when he was found guilty of gross indecency and unlawful sexual intercourse with his first victim.
He will be sentenced on the latest convictions at a later date.
The Adelaide Advertiser (22-7-2011)