Friday, November 24, 2006

Teacher Faces 20 Years Jail Term For Sex With Students

INDONESIAN prosecutors have graphically outlined child-sex abuse charges that could lead to the Australian teacher Peter Smith being jailed for 20 years.

South Jakarta District Court was told Smith had abused so many children - aged between 13 and 17 - he could not remember their names. The abuse occurred over the past six years and was usually videoed, the court was told yesterday.

Smith, 48, was employed by the Australian Government-supervised Indonesia Australia Language Foundation. He had been convicted of abusing Aboriginal pupils in the Northern Territory before changing his name and moving to Indonesia.

After Smith's arrest, another senior teacher at the foundation, Don Hancock, committed suicide. Smith's alleged victims said they were also abused by a second Australian called Don and they identified Hancock from photographs shown to them by the Herald.

The prosecutor, Bayu Pramesti, said Smith was charged with abuse under Indonesia's child protection law, which carries a maximum 15-year sentence. A clause for repeated offences was added to his charges, which could extend his penalty by up to a third.

Mr Pramesti said Smith understood the impact of his acts, which could morally damage the children and cause them to become "addicted to sex".

"The defendant always picked up children from poor family backgrounds so they can be easily used," he told the court.

Smith usually paid the boys between $3 and $10, the court was told.

The charges state Smith committed indecent acts through "violence or threats of violence, forcing, cheating, lying or persuading children to commit or to let indecent actions to happen".

"The defendant … has a hobby to record the children's sexual activities after purchasing a Handycam around year 2001," the court was told.

Videos of the abuse would be presented to the trial, prosecutors said. The testimony of up to eight of the children is likely to be held in a closed court.

Mr Pramesti provided details of the alleged offences, stating Smith would often masturbate the boys, perform oral sex and sometimes penetrate them. His indictment also describes Smith insisting that some of the boys sodomise each other.

Smith's lawyer, Sangap Sidauruk, said he had not decided how he would plead to the charges. "Anything can happen," Mr Sidauruk said.

He said his client had denied forcing, threatening or paying the boys to have sex.

Smith sat quietly before the panel of judges during the first day of the hearing, dressed in a white shirt and tan trousers. The case continues next week.

The welfare organisation that reported Smith to the police, the Jakarta Centre for Street Children, alleged Smith and Hancock had abused up to 100 children and were part of an international pedophile ring.

A statement from the centre, distributed outside the court, called for the maximum penalty to be given to Smith and compensation awarded to his victims. Australia should act to prevent pedophiles travelling to Indonesia, a spokesman said.

Last month, Smith told the Herald his crimes were "blown way out of proportion". Many street urchins survived by prostitution, he said. "It's the only way they can get money. It's a double-sided arrangement."


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