30 Apr 2019

Schoolteacher's alleged assaults 'too similar' to be coincidence

5:45 pm on 30 April 2019

The Crown says the complaints against a former schoolteacher facing charges of indecent acts against seven boys are too similar to be coincidences.

Entrance to the High Court in Auckland

Photo: justice.govt.nz

The trial of Benjamin Christopher Missi Swann opened today at the High Court in Auckland, where he is charged with 10 counts of an indecent act on a young person. Mr Swann denies all charges.

The Crown claimed that Mr Swann - who is known as Benjy - sexually offended against seven young boys, sometimes in locked rooms and sometimes when he was alone with one of them.

The 55-year-old held a teacher's certificate for more than 30 years, and taught at a number of Auckland schools, the last of which was Ōtāhuhu College. He has voluntarily agreed to stop teaching.

In the Crown's opening statement, prosecutor David Stevens said the boys' claims were strikingly similar.

"The Crown says the similarities between all of these allegations are not a coincidence. They are not the result of collusion. The allegations are similar because the defendant did similar things to each of the seven boys. The touching happened"

It is the Crown's case that Mr Swann told the boys to remove their clothes, either down to their underwear, or completely nude, before the alleged indecent acts occurred.

Mr Stevens said two of the boys felt confused about what happened, and one thought Mr Swann would be angry if the boy told anyone. He says one complainant initially kept it to himself because he was embarrassed about what had happened.

"But they all boil down to the same act: inappropriate touching of a child's private parts by an adult male," Mr Stevens said.

Many of the details of the allegations are suppressed, including why Mr Swann was alone with some of the boys, in order to protect their identities.

Police launched an investigation after one of the boys told his mother, which led to six more complainants being identified.

Mr Swann's lawyer Sam Wimsett said there was no sexual contact with any of the complainants.

"It all sounds very bad. And if it were all true, it would be very bad," he said. "But Mr Swann - Ben Swann - denies the allegations 100 percent. And what else can a man - a teacher - in his position do?"

Mr Wimsett told the jury Mr Swann's innocence would become clear to them over the course of the trial.

"Now you will use your life skills, your knowledge of people, your knowledge of teenagers, and your common sense, to spot the lies in this case."

The trial before Justice Duffy and a jury is scheduled for three weeks.