Former Parktown Boys' assistant water polo coach Collan Rex at the Palm Ridge court. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Former Parktown Boys school water polo coach Collan Rex was sentenced to 23 years imprisonment on Thursday by the high court sitting at the Palm Ridge magistrates court for sexual and common assault.

Judge Peet Johnson sentenced Rex to 20 years for 144 sexual assault charges and an additional 3 years for 12 common assault charges.

"The court must send out the message that sexual assault of children will not be accepted and such behaviour will not be tolerated," Johnson said.

"It is unfortunate that irresponsible sexual bullies find their way into the schooling system. You are a danger to society and children in particular. A harsh sentence is called for. "

Rex, himself a former Parktown boys learner, was found guilty of the charges after he was caught on CCTV at the school assaulting students.

"It's clear your actions had a devastating impact on their lives and their families," Johnson told him on Thursday. "There were attempts to commit suicide and some are in constant suicide watch."

He said the only thing that saved Rex from more convictions was that some of the boys could not remember exact days and times.

"They were so afraid of you that they tried to hide away from you."

The judge said he had never come across anyone who had committed so many sexual assaults and considered Rex a serial sexual offender and sexual bully who had exploited the abusive culture at the school.

"Your conduct was discovered by chance," Johnson said, adding that he did not believe Rex at any point thought his actions were wrong.

"You have not apologised to the victims or the school whose name you have brought down."

Parktown Boys boarding house director Christian Bossert had no motive to falsely accuse Rex, said the judge.

One of Rex's victims said he was happy with the sentence and was now focused on recovering.

A parent of one of the victims said the case would encourage victims to come forward and report assaults.

"Our task is to ensure that what happened at Parktown Boys doesn't happen again," the parent said. 

South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse founder Rees Mann said the sentence would send a strong message to predators. 

"Twenty-three years gives the opportunity for the boys to heal," Mann said.

He bemoaned the fact that society still had not fully accepted that boys were also being sexually abused, like girls. 

The Parktown Boys victims should be considered heroes for coming forward and letting their voices be heard, he added.

African News Agency (ANA)