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Drama at ‘sex pest’ teacher's court hearing

The father of a 14-year-old Durban girl, who was allegedly sexually groomed by a teacher, says he is “disheartened and frustrated” and is questioning how the justice system is run after he was barred access from the man’s bail hearing on Thursday.
Family of the girl and journalists were barred access to the bail hearing for the 33-year old man in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
The teacher, who cannot be named until he pleads, has been accused of having sent the girl nude photographs and sexually explicit text messages.
Her father discovered correspondence on her phone after the teacher apparently tried to get her to stay late after a play rehearsal one evening.
Speaking to the Mercury last night, the girl’s father said that while he expected the teacher would be granted bail, he was upset about being denied access to the case. “We are disappointed,” he said.
Earlier Thursday, the girl’s parents, their family and friends as well as members of the press were pushed from pillar to post for hours while the case was moved from one courtroom to another at the Durban Magistrate’s Court building.
They were told by various officers of each court - including orderlies and the prosecutor - that they could not sit in during other cases and were asked to wait outside. They were promised they would be called when their matter was being heard.
But they never were.
When the family eventually found out that the accused was in the dock and attempted to enter the courtroom, they, along with media, were sent out.
Some 30 minutes later, the teacher’s legal team - including instructing attorney Vishal Junkeeparsad and advocate Christo van Schalkwyk - came out.
There were cries of joy and friends and family of the teacher clapped and cheered as he had been granted bail.
The father told The Mercury the public prosecutor had spoken to him and the daughter’s mother on Thursday afternoon.
“Her excuse for not allowing us in was that she didn’t know we were the parents,” he said. “But nobody asked. We were liaising with the investigating officer; why didn’t he tell her?”
He said his family and friends had taken off work and made special arrangements to attend proceedings.
“This case involves a child There should be compassion and understanding. We were not afforded any of that,” he said. “It’s not fair But we will see this thing through”.
No reason was provided for access to the hearing being denied but the public prosecutor - who refused to provide her name - later said it was in a juvenile court “and no-one is allowed”.
Advocate Paul Hoffman, the director of Accountability Now, said that for everyone to be kept out of the court - including the complainant’s parents - seemed to be contrary to the spirit of sections of the constitution.
“It sounds quite inexplicable,” he said.
He also questioned why the accused was appearing in a juvenile court if he was not a juvenile.
He said it was important that justice was seen to be done.
“You lose confidence in the courts when things happen behind closed doors and aren’t explained,” he said.”
Advocacy Manager for Women and Men Against Child Abuse Vincentia Dlamini said this was a matter of public interest.
“We need to see how the system is operational in terms of protecting our children,” she said.
The Mercury has lodged a complaint regarding the way in which the press was excluded from proceedings with Chief Magistrate Edmund Ngubane.
The Mercury’s editor, Yogas Nair, said the paper was looking at options for the media to be allowed to be present during the court hearings of the matter.
“This is an important case and we are consulting with our legal team,” she said.
On Thursday night, a spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, Natasha Kara, said the teacher was granted bail of R6 000 and his case was postponed to next month.
She said his bail was subject to conditions, including that he relocate to the Bluff and report twice a week to the local police station there, and that he not interfere with or contact the complainant’s family.
She said the investigating officer did not oppose bail.

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