Indecent Assault Charges Against 'Super Principal' Dismissed


A north western NSW ‘Super Principal’ has been cleared of allegations he indecently assaulted a young girl in his office at Moree High School in 2013.

The hearing of Hilton Humphries ended this afternoon, with Local Court Magistrate Greg Grogan dismissing both charges against Mr Humphries.

Mr Humphries had been accused of exposing his penis to a 10-year-old girl in his High School office in early 2013, while hugging her tightly and running his hand down her back from her head to her bottom.

The assault allegedly occurred after Mr Humphries teased the young girl to the point of tears about receiving a flower from a young boy.

Magistrate Grogan this afternoon said that while he accepted the young girl gave her evidence in a “forthright manner”, “suspicion, no matter how grave, is not a substitute for proof beyond a reasonable doubt".

He said there were a number of admitted lies told by the young girl in the early stages of the investigation into Mr Humphries which caused him “great trouble and great concern”.

"The court must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt. There may be some suspicions about what occurred on that day, but there remains some doubt in my mind.

“Both charges are dismissed.”

In the end, the case relied heavily on the testimony of the young girl who, in the words of the Crown prosecutor, had endured a “grueling cross examination which lasted many, many hours” and had been delivered in a “cogent, consistent and compelling” manner.

That testimony was delivered to a closed court.

Mr Humphries also took the stand, and delivered his evidence to a packed public gallery. He flatly denied the allegations against him and repeatedly replied, “That is not true” when challenged about the alleged incident.

At one point, Mr Humphries replied with a small laugh and half-smile, when asked if he stood in front of the alleged victim with his erect penis exposed, again insisting, “That is not true”.

Mr Humphries’ barrister, Matt Johnston, told the court that his client had not been “tripped up on any lies” in a rigorous cross examination by the prosecution, but that the young girl had admitted to a number of lies during her evidence.

It was a reference to an interview that the young girl gave to Department of Education investigators in September 2013, when suspicions about Mr Humphries’ conduct at the school first gathered pace.

At that interview, the young girl made no complaints of any misconduct on the part of Mr Humphries to a departmental investigator, but a few months later – on Christmas Eve – disclosed the allegations to her mother, after the family had moved away from Moree.

The prosecution put forward the notion that the young girl had good reason to lie to departmental investigators, because, the prosecution alleged, she had been warned by Mr Humphries that if she told anyone what happened, her mother would be harmed.

But for Magistrate Grogan, there were simply too many untruths in the departmental interview, and they left doubts in his mind.

“Children can be very reliable, very honest, very compelling witnesses,” Magistrate Grogan said. But he found that some of the early statements given to investigators didn’t “stand well with the evidence given in court”, and he found the young girl had “attempted to distance herself” from some of her earlier statements.

Magistrate Grogan also had trouble accepting the proposed boldness of the alleged assaults – Mr Humphries defence pointed to the accepted evidence that his office door was open when the offences were alleged to have occurred, and that Mr Humphries’ office window backed onto the playground at the school and the alleged conduct may have been visible to anyone outside.

The timing of the alleged incident was also a sticking point. Both sides agreed that the young girl had been teased by Mr Humphries about receiving the flower from a young boy, but when that occurred was a source of ongoing dispute.

It was important to the case, because the defence produced evidence that showed the young girl interacting normally with Mr Humphries after the time when the alleged offences occurred.

Magistrate Grogan accepted the timing of the incident as proposed by Mr Humphries defence team.

However, Mr Humphries did not walk from court with his reputation entirely intact. Magistrate Grogan described his conduct around one aspect of the case involving the alleged victim and another young girl as “very foolish and ill-advised”. But, the Magistrate said, it was not criminal.

He also described Mr Humphries' admitted teasing of the young girl to the point of tears as evidence “the defendant is guilty of some very foolish conduct”.

In his evidence, Mr Humphries acknowledged the teasing, but said when he realized the young girl was upset, he stopped immediately.

At the end of proceedings, an application for an Apprehended Violence Order against Mr Humphries was rejected by Magistrate Grogan.

It relates to another matter where Mr Humphries is facing four additional charges of sexual and indecent assault against an adult.

That matter is expected to proceed to a hearing later in the year.

Mr Humphries was employed at Moree Secondary College under the state government’s Connected Communities policy, a program which targets 15 communities in NSW with high Aboriginal populations, and low performing schools.

The 15 ‘Super Principals’ are paid well in excess of the normal salaries of their colleagues, and are also paid bonuses by the NSW Government on agreed outcomes.

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