Principal Kevin John Harding knew how to target vulnerable boys; the ones who were scared. Now, two of his victims say it’s time for justice.
Principal Kevin John Harding knew how to target vulnerable boys; the ones who were scared. Now, two of his victims say it’s time for justice.

Brothers reveal horror at hands of primary school principal

KEVIN John Harding was always smiling.

The Warrane Primary school principal knew just what to say, and when.

He had a calming influence, and knew how to reassure the vulnerable boys, the ones who were scared.

It was 1973 when Harding targeted and brutally sexually assaulted eight-year-old student Daryn Guest.

The child abuser pleaded guilty to the attack the following year, but never spent a day in prison after receiving a wholly suspended 18-month jail term.

In fact, he went on assaulting little boys right up until the year 2000, and only recently went to jail for some of his crimes against children.

But still to this day, Daryn - who has experienced a lifetime of trauma since that fateful day in 1973 - has never received an apology for what happened to him.

The 55-year-old is hoping that will finally change in 2021, thanks to the Commission of Inquiry - and hopefully a finalisation to his claim against the Tasmanian state government for failing to protect him.

 

Daryn Guest and his brother Tim Peardon were students at Warrane Primary School in the 1970s. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES
Daryn Guest and his brother Tim Peardon were students at Warrane Primary School in the 1970s. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

 

Daryn said he always trusted Harding at school - before the attack that changed the course of his life.

"He was always like a clown, smiling. He was very calming. He knew what to say," he said.

"He just got vulnerable boys."

Daryn said that after the attack, he was retraumatised in hospital during the post-offence examination.

"I had to go through hell," he said.

"My life was stuffed from then on in, because of him.

"It wrecks your life, it's only got to happen once."

He said 30 years after the attack, he approached Harding's workplace, telling staff a paedophile was employed there and demanding an apology.

"They said 'no he's a good man, he's turned'. I said 'no he hasn't, I'll be back for an apology'," Daryn said. "I never did get an apology."

Daryn's brother Tim Peardon also says he was sexually assaulted at school, but didn't make a complaint at the time after seeing what his big brother went through with police, doctors and nurses.

 

Daryn Guest and his brother Tim Peardon. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES
Daryn Guest and his brother Tim Peardon. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

 

Daryn said Harding's assault has impacted on every area of his life - including his health and his ability to hold down work and form relationships.

And now, he says it's time for some justice - and some closure.

Lawyer Angela Sdrinis said Daryn and Tim's compensation claims were ready to be served, but they were waiting on state government counsel to lock in a process to settle out of court.

She said they had been waiting for some time, but were now hoping to meet lawyers early this year.

Ms Sdrinis said there were many other Tasmanians in the same position as Daryn and Tim; in fact her firm alone had about 250 clients in a similar situation.

She said she welcomed the Commission of Inquiry: "Tasmania is trying to come to grips with these issues".

"My firm will be making a detailed submission on the many perpetrators about whom we have received client complaints. We will also include in our submission evidence regarding failures of the system where we have seen serial perpetrators being protected and moved around," she said.

Originally published as Brothers reveal horror at hands of primary school principal


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