Check the sex pest register

2014-09-04 00:00

SCHOOL principals who hired a convicted sex pest could face jail time themselves, a specialist investigator says.

The warning comes after the arrest two weeks ago of a well-regarded drama teacher at a leading Durban school on child porn charges.

It has since emerged he received a sex charge conviction in 2003 involving a pupil and should be listed on the National Sex Offenders Registry.

The teacher cannot be named until he pleads in court.

Specialist child abuse investigator Marc Hardwick said those who employed the sex pest teacher could face a criminal charge for failing to check a national sex offender register.

“If they [employers] do not check the register, they could go to jail for seven years and that is in black and white. The legal obligation rests with the employer.

“As I understand the legislation, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could pursue the school, the governing body and even the Education Department,” he said.

He said the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act had been in existence since 2007, but was relatively unknown.

“When this legislation came to be in 2007, the media focused on one aspect of the act, specifically the change of the age at which minors consent to sex. This law has always been there and no focus was given to the sexual offenders register.

“Now we sit in this situation and realise this piece of legislation is not being policed. For me, I want to make a difference to crimes against children in this country,” he said.

Hardwick, a former top cop with the now-disbanded Child Protection Unit, runs The Guardian, a company providing training for parents and teachers as well as screening services.

“I am going to schools and saying that they have a legal obligation to do this. We have helped schools screen thousands of teachers across the country.

“It is such a sign of South Africa that we have to have children who are hurt before we realise we have excellent legislation that is not being policed,” he added.

“The positive of this horrible case is that it highlights the need to police this law. We have the best child protection legislation in the world,” Hardwick said.

He said that parents should take a pro-active stance and make sure schools adhered to the law.

“Parents should go to schools and make sure that the school has checked all of their staff. You don’t want to find out that it wasn’t done when something terrible happens.”

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