A former primary school counsellor who is accused of raping or sexually assaulting young boys, claims that their statements indicate “suggestibility” or “coaching”.
Darren Goddard on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in the Pietermaritzburg high court to 15 charges. These include one charge of being in possession of child pornography, one of accessing child pornography and the rest of either rape, sexual assault or both.
He says that some of the charges were initiated by the investigating officer, in other instances the boys were sexually assaulted while he was in prison and on one count, he was charged even before the boy made a statement to police.
There are eight alleged victims aged between five to 13 years old. The incidents are alleged to have taken place in 2016.
Judge Kate Pillay has given strict instructions to the media not to publish names mentioned in the indictment and the plea, or to reveal the school or any information that may disclose the identity of the boys.
The Witness has for the first time in this article named Goddard, as the law permits an accused in a sexual case to be identified only once he has pleaded to the charge.
Goddard — in his plea read out by advocate Shane Matthews — is also claiming that there was an infringement of his professional legal privilege, his right to privacy and that investigations against him were unlawful.
He said he was employed at the school from 2011 until he left in June 2016. All of the alleged victims, except one, were referred to him as a school counsellor.
Before dealing with the charges, he said he had to deal with aspects he considered will mean he can’t receive a fair trial. Goddard said police infringed his right to professional legal privilege between client and attorney by intercepting and seizing confidential information meant for his lawyer. “The police conduct is so reprehensible and unlawful and a violation so serious that I am unable to receive a fair trial.”
He explained that while he was in prison, he received counselling. During these sessions he handed over confidential information to his psychologist to take to his attorney. These documents were seized from his psychologist by police, without a court order or search warrant.
Goddard added police thus infringed his constitutional right to the privacy of his communications.
“By making my psychologist a state witness, the state had deprived me of my psychological support base.”
He said that the investigation tactics were “unfair, biased, and not objective”.
It followed a pattern of targeting children’s mothers specifically, and insisting on medical examinations without any disclosure by the children of any impropriety on his part.
“These children are then coerced into making disclosures in order to explain the alleged medical evidence, often after lengthy questioning. Statements all show a marked progression of disclosure indicative of suggestibility and coaching.”
Where the facts show abuse when he could not have been involved, no further investigations took place.
On the accessing of child pornography and the possession of child pornography charges, he denied ever accessing or being in possession of child pornography. He said that one of the laptops on which pornography was allegedly found, had been used exclusively by a woman. “I deny that I ever downloaded any images of nude children onto the computer or knew that they were on the computer.”
Goddard also denied that his work laptop contained any images of a pornographic nature.
He said a proper analysis of both laptops will show that the images were downloaded when he did not have access to the devices.
Goddard has described all the children as being troubled or coming from difficult backgrounds.
Of one of the complainants, he said the child had also implicated the headmaster as being one of his molesters. This child, he said, had been seeing numerous psychologists and had been in hospital receiving treatment after a sexual interaction with another child.
Another boy, he said, was displaying anxiety and wetting his pants daily. To assist him, Goddard said he was one of the people who recommended he see a doctor. One concluded there were signs of blunt anal penetration while another said there was none.
One boy, he said, had been seeing a psychologist since he was six-years-old. Goddard said he was charged for sexually assaulting him before the boy made a statement.
In another matter, he said a boy was taken for a medical examination without making any allegations of abuse.
Goddard added that from all the available information, this boy was molested when Goddard was incarcerated.
The trial is proceeding.
Judge Pillay will hear argument on Wednesday if evidence should be led on the pornography charges. The defence wants the court to first listen to argument on the legal admissibility of certain evidence before any witnesses are called to testify in the case.