A Birmingham court has today found former public school teacher and overseas charity executive Simon Harris guilty of seven sexual offences against children while working in Kenya. 

Leading children’s rights charity ECPAT UK has welcomed the conviction of the offender under rarely used extraterritorial powers in the UK’s sexual offences legislation. Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK, said: “Bringing Simon Harris to justice, finally, following abuse against vulnerable children in the UK and Kenya in the 80s and 90s, is a positive outcome and we commend the justice system here in the UK.”

“At ECPAT UK we have consistently pressured the Government to significantly improve extradition and conviction rates of British offenders travelling or living abroad for abuses committed against children. Sadly, the case of Simon Harris is not an isolated incident. Over the years, we have documented hundreds of cases of children abused by British nationals travelling or living abroad.

"If we are to make good on the promise of this conviction, authorities must share intelligence of high-risk individuals across and within UK borders, and fundamentally improve investigations, prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators. We also must devote more resources to addressing the acute vulnerability of children in key destination countries for child abusers by ensuring robust child protection measures.” 

According to press reports, Simon Harris committed the offences while running a gap-year charity he set up in Kenya in the 1990s. During the trial, he also admitted to six offences of indecently assaulting three boys aged between 13 and 14 while he was a teacher in Devon.

Nichola Marshall, lawyer at Leigh Day acting for the family of a boy that Simon Harris is alleged to have sexually abused, welcomed today’s guilty verdict as being an example of the extraterritorial reach of the UK’s sexual offences legislation. 

“Today’s verdict in the Harris case should be a good warning to British child sex offenders that they can, and will, be prosecuted in the UK for acts they commit abroad."

ECPAT UK has been at the forefront of the campaign to implement and extend extraterritorial legislation in the Sexual Offences Act (2003). 

The court awaits further verdicts on five remaining counts against Harris.