Private school did not report pupil's sex claims, trial told

A leading private school did not report allegations that a teacher sexually assaulted a pupil to the police, a court has heard.

Senior staff at Christ's Hospital School in West Sussex were aware of the claims against sports coach Ajaz Karim, one of his alleged victims told Brighton Crown Court on Monday.

The 63-year-old 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 for a decade until 1995.

Christ's Hospital School in Horsham, West Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Christ's Hospital School in Horsham, West Sussex (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Eloise Marshall, prosecuting, said that between 1985 and 1987, Karim massaged a 14-year-old girl's "virtually naked body" and touched her inappropriately after telling her to lie face down on the floor of his locked study and shut her eyes while he played music.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, the alleged victim told the court she first confided in a school friend a year or two later and then spoke to teachers around four years after she said the encounter took place.

The court heard the school's headmaster from 1987 to 1996, Richard Poulton, was given a "detailed statement" of the girl's complaint, and Elizabeth Cairncross - the deputy head between 1985 and 2000, who is now the principal of Wells Cathedral School in Somerset - was also aware.

The alleged victim told the jury: "I have no idea where the statement is, I entrusted it to them (the school).

"As far as I am aware no report was made to the police by the school."

Karim was initially allowed to continue working at the school after the complaints surfaced, but he was eventually forced to leave, the trial previously heard.

In a recorded police interview played to the jury, the alleged victim said 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."

The woman was interviewed by police around 18 months ago but had never reported the allegations before as she felt telling the school was "as far as she could take it".

Fighting back tears during her cross-examination, she denied suggestions from defence barrister Jonathan Davies that her memory was "unreliable" and "playing tricks".

She replied: "My memory of detail is not 100% as it is a recollection of 32 years ago. But Mr Karim touched my body in ways that made me feel deeply uncomfortable. Of that I am certain."

Karim, of Hammersmith in 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, and has links to London branches of Champneys and Credit Suisse.

Another alleged victim said there was "no misunderstanding" that he tried to kiss her when they were alone after he said he wanted to "give her a treat" for doing well in a sports session.

She described Karim as "affable, self-assured, confident and bordering on arrogant", adding: "There is no doubt in my mind he tried to kiss me. As I ran away I could hear him laughing.

"I was quite disgusted. I, in no way, wanted that."

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

Founded in the 16th century, Christ's Hospital School charges boarders up to £31,500 a year and counts Sir Barnes Wallis, inventor of the 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.

The trial continues.