update


Former private school principal pleads not guilty to pornography charge

Mr Neil Marherbe plead not guilty to possessing child pornography.

MBOMBELA – Mr Neil Malherbe, former principal of Penryn Preparatory School in White River, pleaded not guilty to a charge of illegally possessing child pornography in the Nelspruit Regional Court. He appeared in court a week and a half ago, about two years after his arrest in 2013.

The police’s head of communications, Lt Gen Solomon Makgale, previously confirmed that Malherbe was arrested as a result of an international investigation called Operation Spade. This involved authorities from various countries. Interpol and the FBI were involved in the search for a suspected pornography syndicate.

Police searched 15 properties linked to the suspects and seized 672 child and adult pornography DVDs, nine cellphones, six computer towers, two cameras, 22 USBs, eight laptops, two tablets, 39 external hard drives and 25 child-pornography books. Seven South Africans were arrested.

Community members expressed their shock and outrage when he was arrested and charged in July that year. Malherbe was a man who had been held in high esteem. He is a well-educated man who had studied education at Rhodes University, followed by a master’s degree in the field. He taught at the renowned Reddam School in Johannesburg before he became headmaster at Penryn Preparatory School. He excelled as a rugby and waterpolo coach and trained the latter on national level. Malherbe’s passion for teaching children to read, inspired many. His book, The Magyar Conspiracy, impressed critics and won a Sanlam Award for youth literature in 2011.

In the two years that had passed, many things had changed in the life of Malherbe, who was released on bail of R1 000 shortly after his arrest. He was replaced as principal of the school by Mr Grant Williams in the first quarter of 2014 and relocated to the Western Cape.

The case against him was transferred from the White River Magistrate’s Court to the Nelspruit Regional Court and the docket was transferred to the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit.

Meanwhile the trials of three of the other men who were apprehended as a result of Operation Spade had come to an end. Mr Charles Martin Ashford pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of child pornography in the Pretoria Regional Court in June last year and incurred a suspended fine of R20 000. He was declared unfit to work with children. Another suspect, Mr Anthony Ronald Evans, who was arrested at his home at the University of Grahamstown in March this year, entered into a plea bargain with the state in which he will effectively serve 10 years behind bars for his involvement in child pornography. Gregory Robinson received a four-year sentence last year, which was suspended for five years on provision that he did not commit a similar transgression in that time. Malherbe’s trial commenced with his plea of innocence last Thursday and will resume in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court in October.

On April2, Lowvelder reported:

MBOMBELA – Magistrate Mr Willie Wilkens oversaw last Monday’s postponement of the case against the former principal of a local private school, charged with possession of child pornography, to July.

The man, a former Lowveld resident who now lives in the Western Cape, was not present for the postponement of his case. It was ordered that he return to the Nelspruit Regional Court on July 16. His bail of R1 000 has been extended.

The accused’s docket has been transferred to the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit. Lowvelder previously reported that an international investigation into a child-pornography network led to the man’s arrest in July 2013.

Lt Gen Solomon Makgale previously confirmed that the cross-border investigations – dubbed “Operation Spade” stretched across Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Western Europe and Australasia. The accused is one of seven suspects who have been arrested in South Africa in connection with these international investigations conducted by, among others, the SAPS and Interpol.

According to a reliable source, the suspects from various countries were linked by means of an IP address that they all allegedly used. This IP address was a link to a website that featured child pornography. Police searched 15 properties linked to the suspects and seized 672 child and adult pornography DVDs, nine cellphones, six computer towers, two cameras, 22 USBs, eight laptops, two tablets, 39 external hard drives and 25 child-pornography books.

Only one of the seven South African accused have pleaded in relation to the charges against them. He is Mr Charles Martin Ashford (58). His plea of guilty on the unlawful possession of child pornography incurred him a suspended fine of R20 000. He was declared unfit to work with children.

Also read:

Will the principal be linked to pornography charges?

Parents accused of child porn on own daughter, granted bail

  AUTHOR
Helene Eloff
Court Reporter

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