British former teacher sexually abused Kenyan children, court hears

A sketch of Simon Harris (right) appearing at Birmingham crown court for alleged sex offences committed in Kenya. Photograph: Elizabeth Cook/PA
A sketch of Simon Harris (right) appearing at Birmingham crown court for alleged sex offences committed in Kenya. Photograph: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Simon Harris, 55, enticed street children to his Gilgil home with sweets and money while working for gap year charity, jury told.

A British former teacher and charity boss “preyed” on Kenyan street children as young as six years old, picking them up in his car and sexually abusing them at home, a jury has been told.

Simon Harris, of Puddlestone, near Leominster in Herefordshire, is accused of 22 offences ranging from rape and sexual assault of boys under 13 to indecent assault and attempted rape. He is also accused of five counts of possessing indecent images of children.

Kevin Hegarty QC, prosecuting, told Birmingham crown court the 55-year-old would drive into the town of Gilgil in Kenya, “encouraging” street children over to his Land Rover with “food and money”.

He would drive them a few miles to his home, known locally as the “green house”, where the children would stay for days at a time, Hegarty added.

“Some were not assaulted, but he might take a fancy to a particular one and they would stay longer and stay in his bed and be subjected to indecent assault or attempted rape,” the prosecutor said.

The children’s only other alternative was the “desperate circumstances” of a reality of life on the streets. “It is on those children the defendant preyed.”

Hegarty told the jury that Harris, who sat composed in the dock wearing a suit and sporting thinning, grey hair, had left the UK and arrived in Kenya “in the mid-1990s”.

There, the former teacher was running a charity called VAE that placed gap-year students into schools around Gilgil where they would take lessons with local youngsters. However, according to Hegarty, Harris also “had this sexual interest in young boys”.

“He went to Gilgil in his white Land Rover and he would pick up boys who lived on the streets in desperately poor conditions,” said Hegarty. The prosecutor added that Harris’s victims were “very small children who have no families – nobody to look after them, seven or eight years old, sheltering in doorways”.

Hegarty said the allegations against Harris dated back to 2001, and involved 11 victims. “We say none of those children consented to what happened,” he added.

Hegarty also told the jury that, under English law, British citizens could be tried for sex offences committed abroad against children under 16, if it was also an offence in that country.

Hegarty said it was “an unusual set of circumstances” but was an example of “the long arm of the law” at work.

In a trial expected to last until Christmas, the Kenyan victims will give evidence in court from 6,500 miles away over a live satellite link set up especially for proceedings.

On Monday, at the court but before his trial, Harris admitted six offences of indecently assaulting three boys aged between 13 and 14 while a teacher at Shebbear college in Devon in the 1980s.

Harris denies all the other charges.

-theguardian.com

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