Saturday 24 August 2019

Top private school allowed teacher to continue working after sex assault allegations

File photo dated 03/05/18 of Ajaz Karim, 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, accused of sexually abusing students at a top private school between 1985 and 1993. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire Newsdesk Newsdesk

A top private school allowed a "smarmy" teacher to continue working after allegations of sexual assault had been made by a teenage pupil, a court heard.

Ajaz Karim denies nine charges of indecent assault and one attempted indecent assault against six girls aged 14 to 18 at Christ's Hospital School in Horsham, West Sussex, between 1985 and 1993.

Complaints made against him in the early 1990s led him to leave the school, Brighton Crown Court heard on Friday.

The 63-year-old, of Hammersmith in West London, has since worked at Eton College, Queen's Club, The Hurlingham Club, and has links to London branches of Champneys and Credit Suisse.

Karim is accused of carrying out "wholly unnecessary" massages, kissing a pupil on the lips and trying to "snog" another when he worked at the prestigious Horsham school.

Eloise Marshall, prosecuting, told the court between 1985 and 1987 he massaged a 14-year-old girl's "virtually naked body" after telling her to lie face down on the floor of his locked study.

Jurors heard how he told her to keep her eyes closed while he put music on and touched her inappropriately.

The alleged victim said she told the school while she was still a pupil but only reported the incident to police decades later - prompted by other complainants who had the "courage" to come forward.

In a recorded police interview played to the jury, she described Karim as "smarmy".

She added: "I remember feeling very uncomfortable and knowing something was wrong and not quite knowing how to deal with the situation or how to get out of it and feeling very powerless."

She said initially she did not tell anyone because she was "freaked out" but later confided in schoolfriends and teachers.

She said after telling the school she was "slightly horrified to discover that he continued to teach", adding: "I hoped the school would act on our information but I don't believe anything like that happened."

She said she and a schoolfriend were questioned about the incident in separate rooms and she provided a "detailed four-page statement" to Richard Poulton, the headmaster at the time.

She told the police officer she did not report the allegations earlier because she had told the school and previously felt that was "as far as she could take it".

Dressed in a dark suit, Karim watched the footage from the dock taking notes and shook his head when the woman burst into tears while recalling the details of the alleged encounter.

Ms Marshall told the court: "Mr Karim used his position as a member of staff and his role in the sports department at the school to use massage of these girls as a subterfuge for touching them sexually.

"They didn't all appreciate at the time that the touching was sexual but all say they felt uncomfortable.

"The crown say (his behaviour) was inappropriate and unnecessary."

Another woman claimed that aged 14 he found her alone and was "pretty certain he was going to snog" her.

"He found it funny and she was shocked by his audacity," Ms Marshall said.

Karim denied the allegations when he was arrested and interviewed in 2016, claiming he was teaching the girls breathing and relaxation techniques and when he did massage them it was to help them bend their legs.

Another girl who complained to the school claiming he kissed her on the lips but he said it was a peck on the cheek.

Founded in the 16th century, Christ's Hospital charges boarders up to £31,500 a year and counts Sir Barnes Wallis, inventor of the Dambusters' bouncing bomb, and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge as alumni.

Pupils still wear a Tudor-style uniform consisting of a long blue coat and high yellow socks.

Over the course of two weeks evidence will be heard from the alleged victims, witnesses and senior staff at the school at the time.

The trial continues on Monday.

PA Media

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