29 November 2022

Ex-rock climbing coach Stephen Mitchell admits abusing six children

| Albert McKnight
Man in suit

Stephen Leonard Mitchell arrives at court before pleading guilty on Tuesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This story includes details of childhood sexual abuse.

Former rock climbing coach Stephen Leonard Mitchell has pleaded guilty to several child abuse charges, admitting he sexually abused six children.

Through his pleas, it was revealed one survivor was aged between 12 and 13 at the time, another was 10 to 14, while a third was 11 years old.

The ages of the other survivors were not stated in court, but all of the child abuse offences spanned over a decade between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s.

When the case was last heard in court in October, the 56-year-old faced more than 30 charges and a total of eight people had accused him of offences.

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He appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court again on Tuesday (29 November) where his lawyer, Peter Woodhouse of Aulich, said the parties had resolved most of the matters and his client would plead guilty to seven charges.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to two counts of maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person, one count of persistent sexual abuse of a child, two counts of committing acts of indecency on a child and a single count of committing an act of indecency on a child, answering “guilty, your honour” when each was read out to the court.

two suited men

Former rock climbing coach Stephen Leonard Mitchell (left) approaches court on Tuesday with his lawyer, Peter Woodhouse. Photo: Albert McKnight.

He also pleaded guilty to one count of giving false or misleading information for an application, which related to incidents in 2003, 2017 and 2019 regarding a clearance with the Australian Government.

Mitchell did plead not guilty to a charge of committing an act of indecency without consent, which the court heard related to an adult complainant, and was committed for a one-day hearing in the Magistrates Court on that charge on 7 August, 2023.

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All other charges were withdrawn.

Magistrate Louise Taylor committed Mitchell to the Supreme Court for sentencing on the child abuse charges and set 8 December as the first time for them to be heard in the higher court. She also continued his bail.

If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre on 02 6247 2525, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, Lifeline 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline 1800 551 800. In an emergency, call triple zero.

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