Sex felon teaching children

2016-03-10 12:30
Child sex crime convict Benn Pieters has been teaching children despite being listed on the National Register for Sex Offenders.

Child sex crime convict Benn Pieters has been teaching children despite being listed on the National Register for Sex Offenders. (Linkedin)

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Pietermaritzburg - Some Pietermaritzburg parents have unknowingly been sending their children to an educational centre being run by a convicted sexual predator.

The Witness has confirmed that Benn Pieters, convicted of sexually molesting a young boy three years ago, is currently running a “study and support centre for high school pupils” in the city.

This is in spite of being listed on the National Register for Sex Offenders, which prohibits him from being ­employed to work with children.

The Witness paid an unannounced visit to Tall Oaks Education, being run at the Lexden Scout Hall, to confront ­Pieters yesterday. His pupils — youngsters of both genders — were dressed in civvies and sat around tables chatting.

Pieters, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, said the centre is not a school and that he is not registered with any education body.

“It’s a facilitation centre for students that do correspondence studies.”

Asked the ages of the students, he said: “Most of these are adults — 17, 18, 19, 21.” He later admitted that “a few of them” were under 17. In terms of the law, a child is anyone under 18.

He confirmed being listed on the ­National Register for Sex Offenders, ­following his conviction for a sexual assault on a young boy, and admitted that the parents of his students at the school — which he admitted he owned and ran — did not know this and that he was not allowed to work with children.

“Why would you guys even be ­concerned about this? It’s not a school. It’s a facilitation centre; I don’t need to be registered with anyone … I am the owner. My mother-in-law opened it years ago; they moved to Durban and I took it over years ago.”

Pieters said he had been at the education facility on a part-time basis prior to his conviction, but had been working there full-time for over three years.

Asked why he was running the centre when he knew he was acting illegally, he said: “I am doing it to look after my family. I can’t find a job … Why would you write anything that would hurt my family in the first place? Why not act against people who sell drugs to children?”

Pieters added: “I’m not hurting ­anyone; I am actually helping these ­people get through school because they can’t fit into a mainstream school for medical reasons. Most of them can’t get into their respective grades because of their ages.”

He said he would now have to ask those under 18 to leave, and said it would then not be worth his while to run the facility.

Pieters said he had no qualifications. “I’m not a teacher. I can read. I basically help them through their work. Why would you guys do this to me now? I’ll have to close down. But why [are you doing a story]?” He added: “No one has ever bothered to ask me my side of the story.”

Pieters wept a number of times during the interview.

“You guys maybe don’t have a job for me at The Witness? That’s my problem. I cannot find a job; I started working in school to get myself through school,” he said as he wept.

He admitted he had foreseen that his cover would be blown some day. ­“Realistically I did think this could ­happen. Realistically, I thought I would have a job by now.”

He said the parents of the students, who come from all over the city, pay him R750 per month. On a website ­advertising his school, however, fees are listed as R1 500 per month, plus R50 per hour for “homework assist”.

“I make sure the kids do their work,” he said.

Pleading for the story not to be published, he said: “You don’t ­understand. This story is going out there. I might actually go back to jail and my wife and children will be left without a father. I have two children and there’s another on the way. I’ve been trying so hard for so long.”

Asked if he did not think he should be avoiding children, he said: “I know within myself that what has happened is in the past. I know within myself that none of these kids are in danger of anything concerning them. I cannot prove it to anyone; that is just something that I know. I’ll have to close down.”

He said some of his students had been there for six years. He had got to know them quite well, he said, and became emotional again. “My life just worked out to what it is.”

• newsed@witness.co.za

PIETERS was given a wholly suspended six-year ­sentence. At the time he was 32.

Initially charged with rape for ­allegedly performing oral sex on a boy, he eventually pleaded guilty to ­“touching” the boy’s penis with his mouth. He admitted his actions amounted to a sexual assault.

In an oversight, Pieters’s name was initially not put on the National ­Register of Sex Offenders, but he was added in December 2013 following a court application by the KZN Director of Public Prosecutions.

He did not oppose the application.

Regional Court magistrate Phumlani Bhengu had ordered that his name be put on the register, and declared him unfit to work with children.

In terms of the amended Sexual and Related Offences Act, any person who has committed a sexual offence against a child (under the age of 18) and is listed on the register “may not be employed to work with a child in any circumstances”.

The act also says that he may not hold any position related to his or her employment, or for commercial ­benefit in any manner that places him in a position of authority, supervision or care of a child.

THE website advertising the “school” asks parents a ­series of questions, such as whether their child is coping in a mainstream school, needs “special ­attention”, would cope better in a smaller group, misses school due to health issues, struggles with ­homework, or if they struggle with ­exorbitant school fees.

“Each child is unique and should be treated as such. This is the motto we live by and it has proved successful,” states the website.

A SHOCKED Imelda Haarhof, regional manager of KZN Scouts, said they were not aware of Benn Pieters’s background.

She said they would not have ­allowed him to rent their premises had they known, and stressed that ­Pieters had nothing to do with the scouts. She said she would contact the Lexden Camp Committee and ­inform them.

Tony Hemingway of the camp later contacted The Witness and said there were never any scouts on the property when the school was in operation. He said he would change the lock on the gates last night so that Pieters could not enter their premises again.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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