Durban - A former South African primary school teacher has been named and shamed on an Australian paedophile list after he was convicted of committing sex acts against boys as young as 12.
On Monday, Dennis Stewart, 50, appeared in the dock at the County Court in Melbourne, on four counts of committing indecent acts with two children under 16.
Stewart was forced to leave Ballarat and move to Beaumont Hills in New South Wales after he pleaded guilty to four of the eight charges in December last year.
He was convicted on Monday, and is expected to be sentenced on February 11.
This morning, Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Argall, of the Ballarat sexual offence and child abuse investigation team, said Stewart could face up to four years in jail.
Argall said while Steward faced four counts of committing indecent sex acts with the boys, there had been more than 20 incidents reported. He said in November last year Stewart’s bail was revoked when police found he had been communicating with one of the victims through Facebook.
At the time, he admitted to the court he had breached his bail conditions by contacting students at the Ballarat-based school where he previously taught.
Before he emigrated to Australia in 1999 Stewart taught at Glenmore and Altholton primary schools, in Durban. He was a Grade 7 teacher, who taught most subjects.
The charges stemmed from allegations made by two male pupils at the school where Stewart previously taught, in Ballarat. The incidents happened between September and November last year.
According to a report in the Australian newspaper The Courier, New South Wales police are also starting proceedings against Stewart over alleged child sex offences between 2005 and 2008.
The Courier reported that the court had heard that Stewart had invited a number of boys to his home over a two-year period, asking some of them about the size of their genitals and whether they were gay. He grabbed two of the boys’ genitals on separate occasions at his home and in his office at school. On each occasion the boys rebuffed his advances.
Crown prosecutor Diana Piekusis told the court Stewart had arranged a bedroom for one of the children at his home, after buying him a phone, Xbox video game console and depositing money into the boy’s bank account.
The court also heard that Stewart had set up a fake Facebook account for “research” purposes.
Defence counsel Ian Hayden said his client had been addressing psychological issues since 2009, and that the offences committed between 2010 and 2011 were on the “lower end” of the sexual offence scale.
“Eight boys had stayed a night in his home... he did not think it was inappropriate,” Hayden said.
However, Judge Richard Maidment said the offending was a severe breach of trust.
“It’s serious offending for what might have happened... this could have got a lot worse.”
The prosecution submitted a prison sentence of up to three-and-a-half years would be appropriate, while the defence argued for a community corrections order, due to ongoing mental health concerns.
During the trial, Detective Senior Constable Mathew Young testified that Stewart had touched a boy’s genitals on two separate occasions and masturbated or played with himself in front of the child on eight occasions.
He said Stewart had also walked in on the teenager while he was in the shower, and would himself walk around naked in front of him.
Last month, police searched Stewart’s home and seized a computer which is still to be analysed.
After the verdict, Stewart has been named and shamed on the Australian paedophile list – Aussie Paedophiles – which is on the web.
On Tuesday, Glenmore principal David Spiteri confirmed that Stewart had taught at the school and Graham Aaron, principal at Atholton Primary in uMhlanga, said Stewart had taught there for about two years from 1992, before being transferred to Glenmore Primary.