Amazing disgrace: Teacher, pastor, bagpiper and sex offender

John Nicholl has resigned from his teaching job at Taieri College. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
John Nicholl has resigned from his teaching job at Taieri College. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
A teacher, church pastor and experienced bagpiper used his traditional dress to commit a roadside sexual assault on 13-year-old girl, it can now be revealed.

John William Nicholl (54), of Outram, can now be named after his extensive attempts to keep his identity permanently under wraps failed in the Dunedin District Court last week.

In a double blow for the former Taieri College teacher, who pleaded guilty to indecent assault and doing an indecent act, Judge Peter Rollo also declined his application for a discharge without conviction.

The rulings left the defendant’s teaching career in tatters. The school’s principal, David Hunter, confirmed this week that Nicholl had resigned.

The final word on his practising certificate would be had by the Teaching Council, but the court heard the sex convictions would likely make that a formality.

As well as his job, the man had given up other positions: part-time church pastor, youth trustee and bagpipe major in a pipe band, defence counsel Deborah Henderson said.

It was Nicholl’s interest in the latter which indirectly led to
the offences, which began on November 1 last year.

As Nicholl drove through South Dunedin, his 50-year-old victim was walking her dog.

When she rounded a corner into Botha St she saw the defendant, decked out in his traditional Scottish garments, standing beside his car.

Nicholl asked the woman if she could help him tuck in his shirt — it was most effective if she reached under the kilt and pulled the shirt-tails down, he said.

The victim, suspecting he may not have underwear on, was hesitant but Nicholl urged her on.

When she hitched up the kilt, her fears were realised and she walked away.

On December 6 — the day of the Dunedin Santa Parade — Nicholl struck again.

Driving through South Dunedin, he approached two more women on the street, asking for assistance in a similar fashion.

A police summary said it was unknown whether they acquiesced.

“What it does show is this is a pattern of behaviour that existed at that time,” Judge Rollo said.

Following his parade performance, Nicholl was back behind the wheel and this time stopped in Fitzroy St, where he targeted a 13-year-old girl.

This time he was more forceful.

“The defendant grabbed hold of the victim’s left hand and put it under his kilt,” court documents said.

He then moved the girl’s hand across his genitalia.

She ran home in a “very distressed state”, the judge said, and the incident had caused considerable ongoing emotional trauma.

Both victims were adamantly opposed to both the discharge without conviction and permanent name suppression.

In an interview with Probation after admitting the charges, Nicholl claimed the episodes were not sexually motivated.

He also said he was unable to remember forcing the teen to touch him but accepted she would not have lied.

“I’ve got to say, I don’t accept that answer,” Judge Rollo said.

“I struggle to accept in those circumstances you wouldn’t have remembered a young girl’s hand touching your penis for five to eight seconds,” he said.

Mrs Henderson echoed a psychologist’s report that put Nicholl’s acts down to elevated stress due to his work and various extracurricular pursuits.

He was committed to continued counselling, she said.

The judge ruled the consequences of the convictions, while significant, were not disproportionate to the seriousness of the offending.

Nicholl was sentenced to 12 months’ intensive supervision and given a first-strike warning under the three-strikes legislation.

He was ordered to pay his younger victim $1800 and the other $200.

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