Former primary teacher jailed for sexually abusing six schoolboys

Sheriff Ian Wallace said Stephen Tait has abused his position of trust as a teacher which has had a 'continuing impact' on his victims.

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

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 eight and nine at the time.

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

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.

The court 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 and knew jail was “inevitable”.

Mr Neilson said Tait 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. 

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. 

He said: “This was ongoing, planned behaviour of sexual offending against children – children in your care.

“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 urged the jury to convict Tait and told them he had taken advantage of his power and authority as the boy’s class teacher and had managed to “inveigle” his way into their lives.

Mr McAllister said: “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.”

“It took the spark of one boy coming forward in 2020 and going to the police.

“At the time they thought Tait’s behaviour was a bit weird – but looking back on it as adults – realised it wasn’t right.

“Tait gained their trust and friendship by being the cool, fun new teacher – but a far more sinister picture emerged.

“He manipulated these boys, and they trusted him. There is no hint or any logical explanation as to why they are lying about this. 

“They are telling their truth with the benefit of hindsight and growing up – they were abused by this man.”

All six victims, who are now men, cannot be named, 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.

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.

Tait also bought swimming trunks and forced one child to put them on while they were alone together in a classroom cupboard and made the boys discuss “intimate and personal” details about their bodies.

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