Hereford & Worcester

Kenya charity boss victim of 'rumour'

A former charity boss accused of abusing boys in Kenya has been the victim of "rumour and malice", a jury has been told.

Simon Harris, 55, denies a total of 24 charges, including sexual abuse of boys as young as six.

Defence QC Jeremy Dean told Birmingham Crown Court it was "inconceivable" Mr Harris had committed the offences.

He said the alleged victims had instead been "exploited" by a TV documentary team.

'Pure fantasy'

Police in Britain launched an investigation after information about Mr Harris, originally from Leominster, Herefordshire, was received from Channel 4's Unreported World series.

However, Mr Dean said programme makers had caused evidence to be "contaminated", meaning the alleged victims were "acting as one body", a claim denied by documentary director Wael Dabbous on Thursday.

"These vulnerable children were exploited by these people and encouraged and incited to form a negative view [of Mr Harris], which no doubt they came to do when rumour and gossip took hold," Mr Dean said.

"We say there has been encouragement, enticement, rumour and malice, which is why Simon Harris is in the grave position he finds himself today."

The barrister described as "pure fantasy" the prosecution's case that Mr Harris had beaten the children and "plied them with alcohol" and "illegal drugs".

Mr Harris moved to Africa in the 1990s to run the charity VAE, placing gap-year students into local teaching posts.

'Concern and compassion'

He lived near the town of Gilgil in a home known locally as the Green House, which is where many of the offences are alleged to have taken place.

Mr Dean said the 55-year-old had shown "concern and compassion" for the local street children, who had "revered" him and he had operated an "open house" to allow them to "come and go as they pleased".

Mr Harris denies 19 charges of sexual abuse against boys in Kenya, as well as five further counts of possessing indecent images of children.

Earlier, Judge Philip Parker QC told jurors that three other counts of sexual abuse had been quashed.

The jury was also earlier told Mr Harris had served a 15-month jail term over a 2009 conviction for possessing indecent images.

Before the trial he also admitted six counts of indecently assaulting three pupils at a school in Devon in the 1980s.

However, Mr Dean told the jury to "draw a line" between the 55-year-old's previous offending and the allegations he now faces.

The trial continues.

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