Dame Silvia Cartwright to lead Independent Inquiry into abuse at Dilworth School

Dilworth Trust Board has today announced that The Hon. Dame Silvia Cartwright ONZ PCNZM DBE QSO DStJ will head the Independent Inquiry into abuse at Dilworth School. She will be joined by Frances Joychild QC, a senior barrister with extensive experience in cases of human rights and sexual abuse, as Co-Inquirer.

Independent Inquiry appointments

Dame Silvia Cartwright’s distinguished career includes her role as New Zealand’s 18th Governor-General, as well as becoming New Zealand’s first female District Court Judge in 1989 and first female High Court Judge in 1993. She has considerable experience leading inquiries, including the Public Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission’s handling of the Canterbury earthquake claims, and the 1988 Cartwright Inquiry into cervical cancer treatment at Auckland’s National Women’s Hospital.

Ms Joychild is an experienced advocate with more than 25 years’ deep expertise in issues relating to human rights, professional negligence, sexual harassment and bullying, and abuse and assault. She represented the interests of more than 300 Lake Alice survivors before the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care in 2021, and conducted the 2015 Inquiry into the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Mr Snodgrass says: “We deeply regret the harm and hurt caused to some of our Old Boys in the past. Fully understanding and addressing what led to the abuse, and our response to it at the time, is critical to supporting Old Boy survivors, their whānau and our wider Dilworth community.

“These appointments are a milestone in our efforts to confront abuse at our School openly and honestly and support the recovery of our Old Boy survivors and those affected by abuse.

“The appointees’ experience and exemplary community service ensures that the work of the Independent Inquiry will be conducted with the utmost rigour, integrity and care.

“The Dilworth Trust Board and our School are committed to learning from the Independent Inquiry’s findings and recommendations to further enhance and ensure the care, safety and protection of both our current and future students.”

Terms of Reference 

The Terms of Reference for the Independent Inquiry have been finalised by Dame Silvia and Ms Joychild, following completion of an extensive feedback process by the Board on the proposed terms involving Old Boy survivors, those affected by abuse and the wider Dilworth community. Legal representatives of survivors also provided substantive contributions to the Terms of Reference.

“We appreciate all of the thoughtful insights and valuable suggestions we have received over the last few months. We hope the Independent Inquiry will contribute to understanding the extent and nature of the abuse as well as the factors that caused or contributed to the abuse of students while at Dilworth. We also hope that the Independent Inquiry will contribute in a meaningful way to the recovery and healing process for Old Boy survivors and their whānau,” said Mr Snodgrass.

Key dates

It is anticipated the Independent Inquiry will launch on 1 July.

The Inquirers will be supported by a well-resourced and independent secretariat, overseen by the Inquiry Chair, reflecting the range of skills necessary to support their important work.

It will have its own website and make its own announcements. The website will be set up by 30 June to enable people to register their interest in engaging with the Independent Inquiry.

The Independent Inquiry intends to provide its report to the Dilworth Trust Board before the end of 2022, though it may request an extension if it considers it necessary.

Redress Programme

The Board is also well advanced with confirming three independent panellists for the Redress Programme for Old Boy survivors of sexual and profound physical abuse. These appointments and the final Terms of Reference will be completed and announced later this month followed by the launch of a dedicated website for people to register their interest in participating in the independent Redress Programme.