Porn pics haunt victims

2009-01-23 00:00

Johannesburg — Some of the boys who were molested by the former choirmaster of the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir, who was jailed this week, fear that the nude pictures Dr Paul Stephanus Potgieter took of them are still being circulated.

On Tuesday, Potgieter (43), who went on to work at the Green Hills music school in Randfontein, pleaded guilty in the Protea Regional Court in Soweto.

He was found guilty of 44 charges, including sexual offences against underage male pupils.

The state argued that Potgieter groomed the complainants from a very young age so that he could later photograph them in the nude.

He was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison, of which he has to serve 10 for the offences he committed over a period of eight years.

Reports from psychologists and social workers submitted in court regarding the effect of his misdemeanours on his victims generally indicated that the ability of the victims to trust people has been seriously impaired.

One 11-year-old boy was photographed in the nude by Potgieter in January 2005.

He spoke about “his personal pain” following the “very traumatic experience” during his second session with an educational psychologist, Mari Lautenbach, when he described his experience to her in the third person, court papers said.

Dr Marcell Londt, a clinical social worker, said another victim (then 13), who was photographed in the nude in Winterton in 2003, was experiencing intense feelings of mistrust, resentment and bitterness as a result of what Potgieter did.

“He [initially] believed the relationship with the accused was important and that the accused accepted him and gave him a sense of self-worth.”

The court papers referred to Londt’s report on the impact on a 12-year-old boy.

His biggest fear was that the pornography that the accused had produced of him would surface later in his life should he achieve success in his musical career, and that it would then be used against him.

“During the assessment process he had to be reassured repeatedly that the images of him would be destroyed after the hearing, and that his future would not be adversely affected.”

Brenda Cooper, a social worker at Childline in Durban, said the fact that Potgieter fondled a another 13-year-old victim in May 2003 in Winterton caused a crisis in the victim’s life.

This included, among other things, the inability to trust people and feelings of guilt, humiliation and betrayal.

It is difficult for him to form new relationships and he sees himself as different to other boys, which indicates that his self-worth is affected, Cooper said.

As he was being sentenced, Potgieter, the father of two small children, stood with his hands behind his back.

In mitigation it was said on Tuesday that his wife was divorcing him when she heard about his misdemeanours.

He committed the offences between 1999 and 2007 and stood trial on 20 charges of the production of child pornography, 21 of indecent assault, two of crimen injuria and one of assault.

The offences were committed in the Winterton and Bergville areas, as well as in Rustenburg and Randfontein.

During his time at the renowned school, Potgieter was the choirmaster for three years.

He also gave music lessons — and it was his task at the time to make new boys feel welcome and integrate them into the school.

“The accused won the confidence of the new boys and acted as their friend and confidant.

“This made it easier for him to abuse the complainants,” the state argued.

According to the indictment, Potgieter had been “in a position of power as a teacher at the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir and as a music teacher in Randfontein”, where he “specifically targeted vulnerable and maladjusted victims”.

He created opportunities to abuse the pupils and “carefully planned” these by arranging overnight trips and making sure he was alone with the boys.

It was part of the accused’s grooming to introduce the boys to alcohol, the state argued.

Initially he only produced, owned and collected child pornography, but over time his acts against children expanded to contact abuse, including inappropriate touching, masturbation and oral sex.

His victims were all between nine and 19 years old.

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