The former principal of the school where alleged sex abuser Darren Goddard worked as a counsellor has admitted to leaking confidential information to a private investigator working for Goddard’s family.
The principal also told the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday that Goddard’s arrest in June 2016 had “devastated” the school, leaving many staff members in “disbelief”. The principal, who, together with the school, may not be named so as to protect the identities of eight former pupils who have accused Goddard of molesting them, also admitted to allowing private investigator Rick Crouch to interview staff who were willing to speak to him about the case.
Goddard faces 15 counts in total, one of accessing child pornography, another of being in possession of child pornography, and the rest of sexual assault and rape.
The incidents allegedly took place between 2012 and 2016 when Goddard was a counsellor at a local school. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In response to questioning by state prosecutor Attie Truter, the principal said he had given Crouch a copy of one of the complainants’ medical certificates, which pertained to allegations of molestation.
The principal admitted that the certificate was confidential and said he would not have made the same decision in hindsight, but said he handed over the certificate to “balance out the fairness” in the matter.
“I felt it was about fairness. In a public meeting with about 500 people, [one of the parents] said Goddard raped their child three to five times a week over a period of years, and the medical report contradicts that. I wanted to balance out the allegations.”
Judge Kate Pillay told the principal that he could be “accused of interfering” as the matter was subject to a police investigation. “His [Goddard’s] parents had nothing to do with the school. You cannot be the judge and the jury … it’s up to the court to accept or reject the medical evidence.
“You never gave the investigating officer, warrant officer Sivenarain, a copy of that certificate,” Pillay said.
The principal responded that he “assumed” the police “had the files” which contained that information.
In a further twist, Truter asked the principal how Goddard’s lawyers, Siva Chetty and Company, were in possession of pupil files which were confidential and were not allowed to leave the school premises.
“I have no idea. They should have been at the school,” the principal said.
The principal also alleged while under questioning from Truter that Goddard may have kept keys to his office — where files are kept — and a remote for the main gate, adding that staff did have access after hours.
He said the entire Goddard case left him feeling “distraught”.
He said the effect on teachers was “devastating, and some were angry that this could have happened. There were mixed reactions and some people also believed in his innocence 100%.”
In later cross-examination by Goddard’s advocate, Shane Matthews, the principal was asked about being implicated in the matter himself, having been accused by one boy of “taking turns” with Goddard in raping the boy and video recording it.
The principal told Matthews that he “doesn’t even know” what that boy looks like, adding that police had seized his school and personal computers, a cell phone and an external hard drive.
He said police searched his personal camera but found nothing.
Matthews said Goddard does not deny he took some files home, but only because he was given permission by the principal to work on some on the day he was told by the school to stay away from the premises when it came to light he was under investigation.
Regarding the keys to Goddard’s office and the remote to the main gate, Matthews said Goddard himself did not know where they were.
The information is not factually correct. I simply asked questions and followed up on information that the police did not. There was no deliberate sharing of confidential information that the police should have found months before.