Elderly teacher accused of sexual assault fails in bid to avoid appearing in dock

News24 – Tammy Petersen

While the allegations against a former Western Province Preparatory School teacher date back 40 years, the case against him is only a few months old, the magistrate hearing the sexual assault charges has pointed out.

Magistrate Goolam Bawa on Thursday denied a request for the case to be marked as a final postponement during the appearance of Mr P, who cannot be named in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Act relating to sexual offences.

A bespectacled Mr P, who is hard of hearing and didn’t hear his case being called, shuffled into the dock of the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court in Cape Town with the assistance of a crutch and his attorney Ben Mathewson.

The State requested a postponement for further investigation and a psychological report on how the complainant was affected by the alleged actions of the accused.

However, Mathewson, said the offence took place in the 1980s, and it was seemingly incredulous that the investigation was still incomplete 40 years later.

According to him, the Director of Public Prosecutions should have ensured that the case was investigated before bringing his client to face the allegations in court.

There was no medical or forensic evidence to be examined, Mathewson said, with the only outstanding evidence being statements.

He further requested that his client be excused from attending his next court hearing, considering Mr P’s age, as the matter would inevitably only be in court for the transfer of the case to the Regional Court, which would oversee his trial.

The State said Mr P should not be excused from proceedings on his next court date of 19 May and must appear in the dock as required with all accused.

In denying Mathewson’s request, Bawa said that while the alleged crimes dated back 40 years, the case itself would be only six months old by the next court date.

Bawa said, “I won’t mark it final.”

A former pupil laid the charge against Mr P in December, accusing the retired teacher of molesting him between 1984 until his departure from the school in 1987.

The case against him was postponed in his absence last month while a warrant for his arrest was held over after Mathewson produced a medical certificate. The warrant was cancelled when Mr P appeared in court on Thursday.

The 76-year-old had two teaching tenures at Western Province Prep, which offered its support to “any and all victims who were abused” by any of its staff over the course of its history.

Mr P had a short stint at the independent Anglican Church school in Claremont in the 1970s and returned in the 1980s to teach English, History and Geography to the school’s Standard 4 class.

It was during this time that the complainant alleged he was molested and forced to touch Mr P’s genitals.

He faces 42 charges of sexual assault against pupils in the UK, but was found to not be extraditable by Cape Town Magistrate Ingrid Arntsen, who ruled that the State had failed to prove that the UK was party to a treaty with South Africa in accordance with the Extradition Act.

The State decided to challenge this and took the matter to the Western Cape High Court last month.

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