By Kirra Grimes

THE former music director of a local secondary school has been committed to stand trial over multiple charges of sexual assault involving a 12-year-old boy, with a Magistrate finding evidence “of sufficient weight” to potentially secure a conviction.

Sixty-year-old Kirk Skinner of Woolamai appeared at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court last Thursday in relation to 13 charges of sexual assault, involving more than half a dozen complainants of varying ages who were “under his care, supervision or authority” at the time of the alleged offences.

On being committed to trial at the County Court on November 12, 2020, in relation to three charges brought on behalf of the 12-year-old, Mr Skinner entered a not guilty plea.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington told the court she was satisfied that “there is evidence upon which a properly instructed jury could convict”.

Court documents obtained by the Sentinel-Times reveal Skinner was first charged in January this year over multiple incidents of “intentional sexual touching” involving the 12-year-old, which allegedly occurred at Rhyll between March 1 and November 11, 2019.

Further charges relating to several older victims – in offences allegedly occurring over a four-year period (from April 2015 to April 2019) at Newhaven, Woolamai, elsewhere onPhillip Island, and at Wonthaggi – were added in July 2020.

The alleged offences against the older teenage victims included indecent acts and sexual assaults, the nature of which were detailed on charge sheets released by the courts.

Appearing at last week’s committal mention, via video link, Skinner’s lawyer, Tanya Skvortsova, made an attempt to have all matters dealt with at Magistrates’ Court level, where lesser penalties may apply, to which Magistrate Wallington replied: “Absolutely not… With a total of one, two, three, four, five, six, seven complainants, and the seriousness of the offence, including aggravating circumstances…”

“If [the charges relating to the 12-year-old] had just been a standalone matter… this court could’ve dealt with it…” Magistrate Wallington said.

“If I take into account the other matters – that would only reinforce the appropriateness, and is perhaps the major reason for, it being in the indictable stream.”

A “nominal” date of January 29, 2021 was set for the cross examination of witnesses for all matters excluding the 12-year-old, over a three-day period, at the Magistrates’ Court.

However, Magistrate Wallington said it was highly likely there would be an application to have all matters heard on the same indictment, and that the chosen dates could be “disrupted” as a result.

Mr Skinner’s bail was extended on the conditions that he continue to reside at his Woolamai address and that he not contact any witnesses for the prosecution.

He attended the court hearing alone and was not required to speak during the proceedings, except to answer the question: “Are you guilty or not guilty?” in relation to the alleged offences against the 12-year-old.

His answer of “not guilty” was loud and clear.

On exiting the Morwell court complex, he declined to comment on the charges or the upcoming trial.