‘My trial won’t be fair’

2018-02-09 14:04

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Former school counsellor Darren Goddard, who is charged with sexual assault of young boys and with possessing child pornography, took the witness stand on Thursday in a bid to show that police have infringed his rights to a fair trial.

Goddard alleges that his defence has been compromised by the actions of police investigators, who obtained “confidential” information meant for his attorney while he was in custody. He alleges that this happened at a time when he had the right to remain silent and they were not entitled to know what his defence was.

Goddard is standing trial in the Pietermaritzburg high court on 15 charges, two related to pornography and the rest of sexually assaulting and raping boys between the ages of five and 12.

He testified on Thursday in what is legally known as a “ trial-within-a-trial” to determine the admissibility of certain evidence. If the judge rules in his favour, it will mean that the state cannot use that evidence, which may make it difficult to prove all the charges.

Goddard’s testimony was confined to how and why he thought he was not going to get a fair trial.

He told Judge Kate Pillay that he was in custody from June 24, 2016, for nine months, before being granted bail. He had been arrested at 3 am. He said his rights were violated several times. One occasion was when documents meant for his attorney were taken by police.

He said he had given these documents to his psychologist in order to pass them on to his attorney. The man faxed them, but kept the originals.

The psychologist has testified that two police officers came to his office and produced a subpoena. Lieutenant- Colonel Wondra Bezuidenhout, who was investigating the case, said she wanted everything in Goddard’s file.

He took out the file and pulled out certain documents which he gave her. However, she had demanded the entire file, despite his telling her there was certain confidential information in it.

The defence asked at the start of his testimony that the psychologist not be named due to the stigma attached to his testifying in the case, and the judge asked the media to respect the request.

During cross-examination by state advocate Frank van der Heerden, the psychologist agreed that he was registered as an educational psychologist and was not a counselling psychologist in terms of the Health Professionals Council of South Africa.

Van Heerden said to him: “The regulations of the Health Professions Act allows you to release confidential information … according to the Act, you were not supposed to counsel the accused. You went and saw him in your personal capacity”.

The psychologist responded that Van Heerden was “misreading” the scope of his conduct and that he was entitled to offer Goddard counselling.

Goddard told the court that if he had known beforehand, he would have opposed the seizure of his file from the psychologist because it was a gross violation of his rights and violated the medical practitioner and patient right to confidentiality.

He also said that the information the police had which was meant solely for his attorney contained confidential information about his defence, suggested approaches to the case, notes on the complainants and confidential instructions.

For instance, he said the children (the alleged victims) were asked questions in a “highly suggestible” manner, which elicits certain answers.

Van Heerden will cross examine Goddard on Friday. He has indicated to the court that he will be calling two of his own witnesses to testify in the trial-within-the-trial.

Read more on:    sexual abuse

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