AN ex-assistant headteacher accused of performing an indecent act in front of sleeping children at a Christmas party says he was shocked to be accused of the crime.
Matthew Hill, 40, who taught at Lyndhurst Junior School in Crofton Road, North End, Portsmouth, before his arrest is accused of performing the act during his unconnected volunteer work.
He was one of four adults supervising about 18 children aged between seven and 14 on the night of the alleged incident at Buckland Park Play Centre in Malins Road, Buckland. Portsmouth.
Hill, of Mallory Crescent, Fareham, who has no previous convictions, denies outraging public decency by committing an act of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature in the early hours while the children were asleep.
During cross-examination by prosecutor Iain Wicks, Hill said his reaction was one of shock when confronted by Mrs Andrews and deputy play leader Sue Morey as he was definitely not performing a lewd act.
He said: ‘I was upset that someone I had known for 20 years had accused me of doing something I would regard as disgusting.’
Asked by Miss Bahra while giving evidence if he committed the crime, Hill replied: ‘Absolutely not, no.’
Asked what he was doing at the time site leader Nicola Andrews claims she saw him performing the act, Hill replied: ‘I was asleep.’
When Miss Bahra asked if Mrs Andrews had ‘just got this wrong,’ Hill, who has no previous convictions, said: ‘She has.’
A supporting statement a friend of 21 years, Steve Kinghorn, which was read out in court revealed Hill once worked at a summer camp in New York and was a lifeguard for Natalie Portman.
The character reference by Mr Kinghorn, an account manager, read: ‘I recall that Matt once told me that one of the people who he was a lifeguard for was Natalie Portman, the Hollywood actress.
‘When I said to him, jokingly, “that must have been a difficult job”, he pulled me up on my comment and said it was inappropriate as Natalie Portman was only in her teens at the time.
‘He could have just gone along with my humour but he felt it was important to make this point of principle.’
He added in the statement read out at Portsmouth Crown Court by defence barrister Narita Bahra: ‘Matt is a man of principle. He treats men and woman and children with respect.
‘He looks out for his friends. He is intelligent, kind and generous and I value his counsel.’
Mrs Andrews told the court she confronted Hill after witnessing him committing the crime in the early hours, telling him to leave the centre before calling the police.
The court heard children had arrived at the centre from about 5.30pm and eaten a Christmas dinner, played games, made sweets, watched films and taken part in karaoke.
Some of them started settling down for the night from about 10.30pm.
Hill was initially sleeping on a mat on his own in the main hall in the same room as a group of children, while other children slept in a back room.
The court heard that Ms Morey, who was among the supervising adults in the main hall, was struggling to sleep that night.
She got up at 3.15am and she and Hill went outside together for a cigarette.
Shortly after their return Hill got up and said to a child that he was going to move into the back room because he was cold.
He picked up his bedding and was seen by Mrs Andrews, who had woken up in the back room, entering the room.
The court heard that shortly after 5am Mrs Andrews woke up again and saw Hill performing a sex act.
Mrs Andrews said during evidence that he was near a child, who was asleep facing him, with his head in line with Hill’s midriff.
She said: ‘I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I coughed to make it sound as if I was waking up and moved around.’
Asked by Mr Wicks what happened next, she replied: ‘I then moved as though I was getting up and when I looked again he had put himself away and looked like he was asleep.’
The 12-strong jury heard Mrs Andrews got up and alerted Ms Morey who had earlier been concerned.
The pair went into the office area, but then Mrs Andrews went back out and told Hill she needed to speak to him in the office.
Mr Wicks said: ‘He was confronted by Nicola Andrews with what she had seen.
‘He denied it. He said he wouldn’t do anything like that, perhaps he had been asleep and he wouldn’t do anything like that.
‘Nicola Andrews told the defendant that he would have to leave and he obliged and did so.’
The court heard he complied fully with the custody process and forensic examination of his sleeping bag.
Hill was dismissed from his post at Lyndhurst Junior School on August 29 last year on the grounds that he had brought the school into disrepute and adversely affected its reputation.
He is alleged to have committed the offence in the early hours of December 23, 2012.