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Pretoria - A former principal of a Pretoria North Christian school, who was convicted of rape and two charges of indecently assaulting two other girls, has had his name cleared in the Pretoria High Court.
Enrico Kuyper, 70, was sentenced in the Pretoria North Regional Court in 2010 to an effective 10-year sentence, but he appealed against his convictions and sentences in the Pretoria High Court.
Acting Judge Brenda Neukircher said the State had to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, but in this case there were many contradictions in the children’s evidence. She said Kuyper was entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
“The question was why would the children fabricate something like this? In my opinion this is a question which does not need to be answered here,” the judge said.
Kuyper initially faced five charges - four of indecent assault and one of rape of a two-year-old, but was convicted on only three of the charges. It was claimed that he molested the girls during 2007 and 2008. The incidents were alleged to have taken place in his office and in a storeroom at the school.
Kuyper denied the allegations and said some of the children’s mothers had tried to blacken his name to avoid steps being taken against them for not paying school fees.
The magistrate believed the children, although their police statements varied in some respects from their evidence. All of them testified via closed-circuit television and an intermediary. The magistrate could not find any reason why the children would lie about their encounters. One of the children told the court that Kuyper penetrated her private parts with his finger and placed her hand on his genitalia.
This child, however, never mentioned these facts to the police.
At the time the State argued that while the children were still young, they were frank with the court. It was understandable that their statements would sometimes be different from their evidence, it argued.
But Judge Neukircher said the children were very vague about important aspects such as where and when the assaults took place.
One child told police she saw how the headmaster fondled some girls, but in her evidence in court she denied seeing anything.
The judge said the children’s conduct towards the headmaster after they were allegedly indecently assaulted should also be taken into account.
The children, and some teachers, testified that when Kuyper arrived at school, the children would run to his car to carry his briefcase. They did not deviate at all from their conduct towards him after the allegations were made, the judge said.
“Did the State prove its case beyond reasonable doubt? In my opinion the answer is no,” the judge said.
Kuyper, who had been on bail pending the appeal, had his name recorded on the register of sexual offenders after his conviction in the lower court. It will now be removed.