The head of a Canberra residential university college "notorious" for its students' abhorrent behaviour has defended the way he handled a woman's rape allegation, telling a court: "We did our best."
Geoff Johnston said in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday he'd been at the helm of the Australian National University-affiliated John XXIII College since mid-2015.
He said he knew when he took his post at the college it had a "bad reputation" in the past, but wouldn't go so far as to say it was notorious in accordance with barrister Tony Bartley's suggestion.
Mr Johnston said he wasn't aware the university's Fellows Oval, which is about a five-minute walk from John XXIII College, was referred to by college residents as "rape oval".
He said his deputy told him on arrival at the college some students did "rock spidering" at John XXIII - a practice whereby students knocked on room doors and if a resident opened, "it was consent".
In 2017, The Canberra Times reported Mr Johnston expelled five college students who took photos at a formal dinner of women's breasts and rated them on Facebook.
Mr Johnston said he'd dealt with disclosures of sexual assault at St Albert's College in NSW before he came to John XXIII and a student told him she'd been raped in an alleyway near Mooseheads at a college "pub golf" event.
He said he hadn't heard of pub golf before August 6, 2015 - the woman says she was raped that night, or in the early hours of the next morning - but he and the college did their best to handle her disclosure.
According to court documents, pub golf involved student leaders taping bottles of alcohol to the hands of participants, who would have to drink a certain amount to make "par".
"I was only new to the college [so] I hadn't set up the system that I wanted," Mr Johnston said on Friday.
The woman, who is suing John XXIII for failing in its duty of care to her, says Mr Johnston blamed her in November 2015 for being assaulted and said he wasn't sure anything happened in the alleyway.
On Friday, the college head said he'd told the woman he had "little to work with" in his investigation of the alleged assault because she couldn't remember it happening.
Mr Johnston said if he'd told the woman her alleged assailant took her home and put her to bed after it happened, "it was bad wording".
"I told her that she could not afford to get so drunk she had no memory [of the incident]," Mr Johnston said.
"She gave me a lecture for what seemed like ages ... [she said] she had a right to go into town and get drunk."
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Mr Johnston said he talked to the alleged rapist to make sure he got "both sides" of the story, but there wasn't enough evidence to prove the assault had happened.
Mr Johnston said the university's dean of students, Dr Paula Newitt, told him she'd have to conduct her own investigation into the woman's claim but she believed he had taken a fair approach.
Mr Johnston said the alleged rapist had been caught on tape telling the student he'd had sex with her at pub golf, but later told the college head he didn't know why he'd made the admission.
Mr Johnston said the man told him he didn't really know what had happened that night, but he was "revolted" by the fear something might have.
The court heard the college head got a call on the night of the alleged incident from a resident, who told him there was a lot of people drinking at John XXIII and asked him what they should do about it.
Mr Johnston said he directed that all students leave the residential area if they wanted to continue drinking.
Mr Bartley asked him whether he would have given a different directive if he knew students were drunk to the point of vomiting and falling over on the night. Mr Johnston said he probably wouldn't have sent them away if that was the case.
Mr Johnston told the Times in 2017 that if he didn't work with students to effect change, "they'll go off campus and do it somewhere else where I don't know about it".
When asked about the quote in court on Friday, he said it was about working with student leaders on drinking operations because if "we come down too heavy", they didn't tell the college anything.
Mr Johnston also told the Times in 2017incidents were "going to happen all the time".
John XXIII's lawyers have largely rejected the alleged rape victim's version of events. They maintain Mr Johnston acted properly in his handling of her complaint.
The civil hearing continues.