A FORMER Newport teacher appeared in court yesterday charged with eight counts of indecent assault towards two former pupils.

Mario Morelli, 77, of Keynsham Avenue, Newport, is on trial at Cardiff Crown Court charged with eight counts of the indecent assault of two girls under the age of 14 who were in his class at a Newport school.

After the jury was sworn in by Judge Stephen Hopkins yesterday afternoon, the court heard from prosecutor Matthew Cobbe, how the two female victims, who are now adults, had made separate allegations against the defendant who was their teacher at the time.

Mr Cobbe in his opening speech to the jury said that in the late 1980s, Morelli is alleged to have indecently assaulted one of the girls in his class who was under 14 years of age at the time; by inappropriately touching her while she stood at the front of the class reading to him.

Mr Cobbe said initially this was by touching her over the top of her skirt while she stood next to him reading, and said later this escalated to touching her indecently He added that this was then happening on a regular basis, but said that the victim was placed so that the rest of the class could not see what was happening.

The alleged victim also said that while using her to demonstrate handstands to the class, Morelli leered at her indecently.

The court also heard how a second alleged victim, who was a girl in the same class, has made her own allegation of indecent assault against Morelli - saying he would inappropriately touch her on the bus to school.

Addressing the jury, the prosecution said that the allegation from the second alleged victim said that Morelli would sit beside her on the bus and place his briefcase on his knee so that it was also covering her and touch her indecently.

This was alleged to have occurred ten to 15 times over the course of a year before the girl changed schools.

Mr Cobbe rounded off his opening speech by saying that the defendant faces eight counts of indecent assault-five on one alleged victim and three on the other.

Morelli has pleaded not guilty to all counts.