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Court / Former teacher jailed for acting indecently towards young boys

The offences were committed between August 2009 and July 2010

A FORMER Shetland primary school teacher has been jailed for two and half years after being convicted of historic sexual offences against six of his pupils.

Stephen Tait, 41, was found guilty after a trial at Peterhead Sheriff Court in February on all six charges of lewd, indecent and libidinous behaviour towards six boys who were aged between eight and nine at the time.

Tait had been employed as a probationary teacher for the school year more than a decade ago at Bell’s Brae primary school in Lerwick.

Stephen Tait is led to the cells.

All six victims, now men, gave evidence either in person, via a pre-recorded video, or remotely from Lerwick.

The jury of four women and eleven men found Tait guilty of all six charges by unanimous decision, taking less than an hour to do so.

Tait was found guilty of touching the six boys sexually and forcing some to remove their clothes – one was molested on the private parts, and several spoke of being stroked or caressed on the bottom while they stood at his desk.

The court also heard Tait has previous convictions from Dunfermline Sheriff Court dating back to 2012 where he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a boy and then found, in 2013, to be in possession of indecent images of children.

He was not jailed for these convictions and the court heard the offences in Shetland pre-dated them.

In his defence, Tait’s agent Colin Neilson said his client maintained his position of innocence and said he had not re-offended in the time since his last conviction but knew jail was “inevitable”.

The agent said Tait, now of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, had been living “an isolated existence” over the last decade and had lost his job in the food industry as a result of these court proceedings.

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On sentencing Sheriff Ian Wallace said Tait had abused his position of trust as a teacher and by doing so had also caused harm to the teaching profession.

“This was ongoing, planned behaviour of sexual offending against children – children in your care,” the sheriff said.

“This was a serious breach of trust.

“The evidence against you was clear and compelling and the victims appear to be admirably robust and are continuing with their lives.

“Nevertheless, your actions have had a considerable, continuing impact on them.

“Your actions caused harm upon the teaching profession, to all children attending school and all the parents who send their children to school.”

He sentenced Tait to 30 months in prison, saying it had to take into account the serious view of offending against children and added Tait to the sex offenders register for life.

Fiscal depute Ruaridh McAllister had previously urged the jury to convict Tait and told them he had taken advantage of his power and authority as the boys’ class teacher and had managed to “inveigle” his way into their lives.

The fiscal added: “He sexually abused these boys. It took place when they were aged eight and nine and they did not fully feel the magnitude of what had taken place until later when they were adults.

“Stephen Tait wants you to think they were all lying to you, but the only person lying in this court is Stephen Tait.”

Following today’s sentencing police detective inspector Craig Still said: “Stephen Tait abused his position of trust as a teacher, and I would commend the victims for coming forward and reporting his behaviour to us.

“Investigating events that have happened in the past can present challenges and it can sometimes only be with hindsight that people recognise that what happened to them was abuse.

“Police Scotland has highly trained, specialist officers, across the country who can investigate such offences and, working with partners, ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.

“We are committed to investigating all reports regardless of when abuse happened, where it took place or who was involved. We will listen, we will investigate, and we will take prompt action to ensure that no-one else is at risk of harm.‎ We would ask anyone wishing to report abuse to contact us on 101.”

Copy by Joanne Warnock, Aberdeen 

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