Tuesday 24 April 2018

Top private school 'warned girl of her name going in press over coach kissing allegations'

File photo dated 03/05/18 of Ajaz Karim, who will stand trial at Brighton Crown Court, where he is accused of sexually abusing students at a top private school between 1985 and 1993. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
File photo dated 03/05/18 of Ajaz Karim, who will stand trial at Brighton Crown Court, where he is accused of sexually abusing students at a top private school between 1985 and 1993. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Flora Thompson

A top private school warned a "vulnerable" teenage pupil her name could appear in the press if they dealt publicly with allegations a sports coach kissed her, a court heard.

An alleged victim claims she was given two options by Christ's Hospital School in London when her complaint about Ajaz Karim was brought to their attention - for the matter to be handled "very publicly" with her running the risk of being identified, or for him to be asked to leave the school.

Footage of the woman's police interview was played to Brighton Crown Court on Tuesday as she discussed a series of alleged incidents in around 1992 or 1993 at the prestigious Horsham school in West Sussex.

Karim, (63), of Hammersmith, West London, denies nine charges of indecent assault and one attempted indecent assault against six girls aged 14 to 18 at the school between 1985 and 1993.

He has since worked at Eton College, Queen's Club, The Hurlingham Club, as well as the London branches of Champneys and Credit Suisse.

During the interview in May 2016, the woman told officers she started having "special (coaching) sessions" with Karim and he kept "name-dropping celebrities" when talking about his work at Champneys health club.

She said he started giving her massages while she was partially naked, telling police: "When you trust somebody, you go with it. He was a teacher, he was helping me."

On another occasion he pushed her up against a wall in a boarding house, the court heard.

She said: "He kissed me on my face and then on my mouth. And I couldn't move my arms because he was holding them."

The following academic year she said she agreed to let a friend tell the senior management team - headmaster Richard Poulton, deputy head Elizabeth Cairncross and housemaster Bob Sillett - on the condition her name was not given and no action was taken.

She said she felt "ashamed and uncomfortable" and only wanted the matter on record should anyone else come forward in the future. But her friend said the teachers knew it was her and that other

complaints had already been made.

Jurors heard how she was asked to speak to Mr Sillett in the evening and write a statement.

She said: "(He told me) I have a choice. We can either go very public. His (Karim's) name would be dragged through the press. I was told he was married and has a young family."

But she said there was an implication her name could be published, adding: "It was just completely not what a 17 or 18-year-old who was trying to do the right thing wanted to hear.

"Or (I was told) we can make it known to him that you have come forward and make him resign."

She said she chose the latter, adding: "I completely put my trust in them (the school) that they had my best interests at heart."

Afterwards she said she felt "very isolated" when Karim continued to teach her, claiming others were "frustrated" with her when he then left because they had "listened to a load of waffle he had told them".

She added: "The whole thing was really poorly handled.

"It has taken me a really long time to get my head around it. I have written off a chunk of my life because of my experience."

Mrs Cairncross - who worked at the school between 1986 and 2000 - described the alleged victim as "vulnerable" and said she was the third girl she was aware of who had complained about Karim.

Giving evidence, the current principal of Wells Cathedral School in Somerset told the court she was Christ Hospital's designated child protection officer at the time of the allegations but headmaster

Mr Poulton was in charge of safeguarding.

She said she "could not recall" when the first two girls - who spoke to her together - made the complaints but during a meeting staff held with Karim he "strongly denied" the allegations and was

"defensive".

She said: "My memory is that he was given a disciplinary warning by the headmaster. I can't recall if I reported it to the child protection services or not. It would be recorded at the school. I don't know if the school still has these records or not."

She said after the third complaint was made, Karim was on what would now be described as a "final warning", adding: "It was regarded it was evidence that his behaviour had in no way changed.

"He was told to leave the school. He was dismissed."

The trial continues.

Press Association

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