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Lawyer for Simon Harris victims welcomes sentence

Lawyer for Kenyan victims of abuse says her clients are pleased that their abuser, Simon Harris, a former public school teacher, has been sent to prison.

Posted on 26 February 2015

The lawyer for Kenyan street children abused by a British charity boss, has said that her clients are pleased after he was jailed for 17 years and four months for abusing them.

Simon Harris, a former public school teacher, was found guilty in December 2014 of abusing vulnerable young street children in Kenya after promising them food, money and schooling.

Judge Philip Parker QC sentenced Harris today at Birmingham Crown Court , telling him he was obviously "intelligent" and "charismatic", which had given him "a veneer of respectability", but that he had used this to conceal a "self-centred arrogance".

"You designed your life to be close to boys - it suited you to be in education," he said. "It gave you kudos and it also provided a source of boys."

The judge added: "It is abundantly clear you have an unlawful sexual interest in young boys."

The offences were committed at his luxury home in the town of Gilgil, while 55-year-old Harris was running a gap year charity he set up in the East African country in the 1990s.

In December 2014 a jury unanimously found Harris guilty of five sexual assaults relating to victims as young as 10-years-old, two instances of indecent assault and four counts of possessing indecent images of children.

Harris’ crimes came to light after a Channel 4 documentary team making a film about the plight of Gilgil's street children was given information about his activities and passed it on to the police.

Nichola Marshall from law firm Leigh Day, who is representing Kenyan boys and men abused by Simon Harris, said:

“My clients are pleased that this man, who they all grew to fear, has now been sent to prison. They are also relieved that his crimes have been recognised and in their eyes he has been punished for them.

“The children and men I represent are some of the poorest in the world, at times many were living on the streets and therefore extremely vulnerable, this vulnerability made them perfect targets for Harris and those like him who prey on the defenceless.

“This case is the first time a British man has been convicted for sex offences carried out in Africa, and should serve as a warning to paedophiles looking to sexually abuse children overseas, believing they are beyond the law. This case proves that they are not." 

Ms Marshall who represents 30 Kenyan individuals currently taking legal action against Harris, said: “We have the legislation to convict British citizens, we just need to use it more.

“The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) did an excellent job on this case but have limited resources. We call on the Government to provide more funding for bringing foreign offenders to justice, not least to deter others but also to protect the world’s most vulnerable children”.

CEOP alerted International Justice Mission (IJM) to Harris’ crimes in 2013, after receiving intelligence from Channel 4.

Working alongside CEOP and local authorities such as the Kenya Children’s Department, the District Hospital and Kenya Police, IJM helped place victims in shelters and located medical documents corroborating the abuse.

The organisation also provided the trial’s primary translator as well as support for the victims to ensure their participation in the case.

IJM’s UK office has been campaigning on the issue of sexual abuse committed by British citizens abroad since October 2013. The nationwide Stop It Together campaign, which has gathered over 7,000 signatures, seeks to draw attention to the problem of UK nationals travelling outside of the country to commit sexual crimes against children, and encourages the government to prioritise the apprehension and prosecution of UK nationals committing sexual crimes abroad through the application of Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of IJM UK, said: “Today’s sentence is a landmark moment for the UK justice system and for all the organisations and authorities who worked together to secure the imprisonment of this man. We are proud to have played a key role in bringing him to justice. The tough sentence sends a clear message that those who abuse vulnerable, young children will be held accountable.”