A class action taken by men who suffered historic abuse at one of the country's wealthiest schools has been dropped by lawyers who say court battles can be expensive and lengthy, especially against "deep-pocketed defendants" like Dilworth.
The decision has come as a major blow to former students who feel the school should be compensating them for the abuse they suffered during the 1970s through to 2000.
"I decided to be part of [the class action] because Dilworth itself needs to be held accountable for gross negligence and a failure in duty of care," one victim told the Herald.
Now he's "angry and disappointed" at the decision not to proceed.
"At the end of the day, it's always about money. That's the bottom line, so the human factor comes second to that."
It's understood around 40 former students had banded together in the hope of taking a class action against the private boarding school after the extent of the historic sexual abuse emerged last year as part of Operation Beverly.
The ongoing police investigation has uncovered more than 100 victims and resulted in the arrests of 11 former staff and tutors, one of whom has pleaded guilty and been sentenced and three of whom have since died.
GCA Lawyers principal Grant Cameron claimed late last year that a class action was justified on the basis that Dilworth had breached its fiduciary duty.
"Basically there was a systemic failure on the part of the school to provide the protective environment that was lawfully required."
However, today the law firm has contacted the former students to say it had decided not to proceed with the case.
Cameron said there was a chance the school could "do the right thing" and agree to a private settlement but the reality of a substantive legal battle had to be considered.
That meant the firm had to look at factors like the time, risk and cost of litigation and the high degree of stress for victims to make a decision on whether to proceed.
"In turn, those factors have to be weighed against the typical defendant's strategy of 'delay, deny, defend'. Put simply, this means that a deep-pocketed defendant (and Dilworth is one of those) will often simply delay things, deny everything, and then when faced with actual proceedings, will choose to fight/defend, for as long as possible.
"Such strategy is designed to wear down the plaintiff and cause them to run out of money or motivation, whereupon the problem just 'goes away'.
"Unfortunately, where there is an inequality of arms, such a strategy can often be very effective, and there is certainly an inequality of arms here."
Cameron said the only option was to try and find a finance company that would support a worthy and commercially attractive case - but he felt that was unlikely in this case.
He said the school's legal team was approached in November about having a meeting but "I was told that they were not interested at this time."
The law firm has been approached for comment.
Another former student said it was frustrating Dilworth, which has apologised for the historic offending, hadn't been proactive in offering compensation in the first place.
"There's been a lot of good reasons why a class action wouldn't succeed [but] it has been particularly galling that the Dilworth School Trust Board hasn't taken the initiative and formulated an offer of compensation themselves.
"This is especially so given that the old boys who were sexually abused over the course of many decades by teachers, senior staff, clergy and senior pupils of Dilworth School have had to live with the deep-rooted consequences of the abuse every day for the whole of our lives."
The man says he has struggled with relationships, had anger issues and suffered PTSD as a result of the abuse he suffered as a 9-year-old.
"I live with the consequences of this every day, every waking moment," he said.
"For most of my life I have felt guilt, fear, shame, humiliation and embarrassment over the abuse."
The man said the boys lived in a constant climate of silence, fear and retribution at the boarding school.
"When I felt brave enough to approach and tell a senior Dilworth staff member about what was happening he told me to stop lying. I was threatened with the cane if I spoke about it again.
"The abuse from the time it first happens robs you of your identity, who you are, your core self, and you can spend the rest of your life searching but not finding or being your real self. That's the legacy of Dilworth School."
He is now pleading with the school to do the right thing.
"What would mean so much more would be if an offer of compensation came from the Trust Board of Dilworth School, them saying 'guys, we're listening, we believe you, the school was supposed to look after you and we're sorry we got it so wrong'."
Dilworth Trust Board chairman Aaron Snodgrass said the school wasn't aware of any class action proceedings, besides what it had heard in the media.
Snodgrass was vague when asked whether the school would consider negotiating a settlement outside of court.
"Dilworth has reached out to old boys acknowledging and apologising for any historical abuse, and has offered assistance in the form of free, independent and confidential listening and counselling services," he said.
"We have also invited old boys to get in touch directly should they wish to talk to us about their particular circumstances."
Were you abused? Where to get help:
• The Operation Beverly team handling the Dilworth investigation can be reached on (09) 302 6624 or email email@example.com
• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline Safe to Talk on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334. (available 24/7)
• Mosaic - Tiaki Tangata: 0800 94 22 94 (available 11am-8pm)
• Dilworth has a free and confidential listening and counselling service and is happy to meet with anyone who wants to talk. Contact the school for more information.
If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.