Former Ballarat teacher faces court again on sex charges

A FORMER teacher at a Ballarat secondary school has pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse charges.

Dennis Michael Stewart, 50, appeared in the dock of the County Court in Ballarat yesterday, where he entered guilty pleas to four counts of committing an indecent act with a child under 16.

In a courtroom void of friends or family, Stewart wept as the charges were read to him.

The charges relate to two boys who were students at the school where Stewart taught.

Three of the charges relate to one boy, and one to the other.

The school cannot be named for legal reasons.

Stewart’s guilty plea spares 25 prosecution witnesses from giving evidence, including his two victims and 17 other civilians.

Counsel for Stewart, Ian Hayden said his client would engage with a forensic psychiatrist before the plea hearing, which is scheduled for February 4 at the County Court in Melbourne.

A video link will be set up with the Ballarat court to enable interested parties to watch the proceedings.

Crown prosecutor Diana Piekusis said the matter was “of some complexity” and the plea hearing would likely require more than a day of court time.

She said it was possible the Crown would cross- examine any medical witnesses put forward by the defence.

Judge Richard Maidment extended Stewart’s bail, but warned him he was facing a likely jail sentence.

“This is not an indication at all that should cause your client any optimism,” Judge Maidment said about Stewart’s bail.

Since his initial arrest and release from custody, Stewart was returned to prison for breaching bail conditions by contacting students at the school where he previously taught.

Then in April he was granted bail for a second time.

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