Maritzburg Sun (South Africa)

Last leg for Goddard trial

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It’s been six harrowing years for the nine young boys and their families, who former city school counsellor Darren Goddard stands accused of molesting.

As the six-year long trial comes to a head, with judgement set to be delivered this Thursday, the parents, who have endured years of diligently attending triggering court proceeding­s, are desperate for justice for their sons.

Wrapping up the trial on Monday, state advocate Attie Truter was called to provide clarity on certain aspects of evidence argued by Goddard’s defence in the

Heads of Argument.

Goddard faces 15 charges relating to sexual assault and rape of nine boys, and accessing and being in possession of child pornograph­y, dating back to 2016. Truter maintained that none of the State’s submission­s are premised on unfounded evidence, and called for the court to “take a step back and see the evidence in its totality”.

He emphasised the case is looking into “alleged rape over an extended period of time”, and asked the court to “try to understand the evidence in the context of events”.

Referring to instances where the doctors’ examinatio­ns confirmed “blunt anal penetratio­n”, but the child denied sexual abuse; or vice versa, Pillay raised concern around the lack of corroborat­ion between the medical reports of the complainan­ts’ testimonie­s.

“The medical evidence has to be consistent. Either the child is lying or the doctor is wrong,” she said.

Truter went through the counts that corroborat­ed the medical evidence, and counts where sexual abuse had been proven through the evidence. He maintained that paediatric­ian Dr. Matilda Madekuroza’s evidence was exceptiona­lly strong.

However, Pillay stressed that certain counts pertained only to charges of sexual assault and the medical findings that were inconclusi­ve or only suspicious of sexual abuse did not support that count.

“If the evidence of the doctors is taken out, what do we have? Just the evidence of children versus the accused,” Pillay questioned. To which, Truter responded that one had to approach this case with “common sense, logic and background knowledge”.

“If [the first complainan­t] had not been raped, we would not be here,” he added.

Pillay also raised the issue of suggestibi­lity in the form of leading questions asked by some of the parents, that “permeates the entire trial because it deals with kids”.

“The trail of [suggestibi­lity] taints this trial.” She referred to certain questions the children were asked that could potentiall­y lead their evidence in a specific direction.

Truter referred to the defence’s cross-examining of the first complainan­t, where defence advocate Shane Matthews had cross-examined on suggestibi­lity and the complainan­t had denied it, in two questions.

“The answer explains there was no suggestibi­lity,” said Truter.

Truter further referred to claims that the investigat­ing officer’s questionin­g of the complainan­ts made use of suggestibi­lity. “At one point it was suggested by the defence that there was conspiracy going on in the case. It was not my role to call the investigat­ing officer to the stand. The defence should have done that.”

He added that police officers had a legal duty to investigat­e reports of sexual abuse, and as part of their investigat­ion, they were required to ask questions. “For them to tell parents to take their children for a medical examinatio­n is absolutely normal.”

In the instances where the parents mistakenly asked leading questions, Truter called for the court to “understand the witnesses”.

“The court will have to find, in the evidence, the extent to which the question causes false [evidence].”

On the charges pertaining to child pornograph­y, Pillay put it to Truter that the evidence of Goddard accessing porn sites and his search history, including searches for ‘boy rape’, was still too vague, and not strong enough evidence to convict Goddard on the charges of child pornograph­y.

Based on the definition provided in Truter’s argument of what constitute­s child pornograph­y, referring to children involved or implicated in sexual activity, she argued the images retrieved from Goddard’s hard drive of naked boys posing, did not constitute child pornograph­y. The judge requested Truter to come up with examples of case law to substantia­te how the images can constitute evidence.

Truter said while he can concede to the issue of the porn sites as not a secure conviction on that charge, he stood by the fact that it held evidential weight.

“The search history still follows the theme of the State’s case. Before [Goddard was employed at the school], he had been engaging with pornograph­y. In 2010, [Goddard] searched specifical­ly for porn relating to “boy rape”, and here we are, in a case [regarding] the rape of young boys,” Truter said.

Judge Kathy Pillay will deliver her judgement on Thursday at the Pietermari­tzburg High Court.

 ?? Darren Goddard. ?? Jade le Roux
Darren Goddard. Jade le Roux

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