School sex offender case a 'wake-up call'

JOHN HARTEVELT AND ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 13:00 21/08/2012
Fairfax NZ

Report into convicted child sex offender Te Rito Henry Miki gaining employment at schools exposes "serious failings" says Education Minister.

Te Rito Henry Miki
GRAHAME COX/Fairfax NZ
JAILED: Te Rito Henry Miki.
HEKIA PARATA
KARL DRURY
HEKIA PARATA: The report had exposed some "serious failings" and provided a "very serious wake-up call" for the whole state sector.

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A convicted child sex offender was arrested on a Tauranga school's grounds only to go on to teach at another school.

The report of a ministerial inquiry in to the case of Te Rito Henry Miki was released today.

It reveals the widespread suspicions of principals and teachers about Miki were overlooked on several occasions.

One "diligent" Tauranga constable, a former teacher, "located all the information needed to expose Miki, but was deterred" by a lack of the necessary paperwork.

"It was clear that potentially useful information about Miki was lost because at least one concerned person was put off by overly dogmatic bureaucracy," the report found.

Miki, 41, evaded authorities for five years after his release from jail for an indecent assault on a 14-year-old boy. While under an extended supervision order, Miki used a fake CV and birth certificate to gain employment during the five years to January 2012 in six North Island schools.

He pleaded guilty in April to seven charges of fraud and four counts of breaching parole conditions. Under his Extended Supervision Order, Miki was not allowed to work as a teacher or contact children under 16.

In May, Miki was sentenced to four years, one month and two weeks jail for the offending.

The report into his case, led by former Ombudsman Mel Smith and former Education Review Office chief executive Judith Aitken, reveals Miki racked up 53 fake identities.

At one point, in August 2009, Miki was arrested by Tauranga police and removed from the school grounds where he had been working.

"Satisfied that he had been arrested and physically removed from the school, the principal erroneously assumed that this information would get to the the [Teachers Council] via the police. She could recall nothing in her induction programme that emphasised mandatory reporting, and certainly her employer had given her no directions or advice on this matter, either before or after Miki's arrest," the report states.

After his arrest, Miki was charged with a breach of his release conditions and sentenced to 125 hours of community work.

"At that time, Miki was already employed at [another school] as a teaching assistant and was subsequently appointed to a full teaching position.

"Miki remained at large and teaching in schools quite contrary to the very clear conditions in the Extended Supervision Order made on 11 March 2010, until his arrest on 22 February 2012."

The Government response, announced today by Education Minister Hekia Parata, includes measures for better information sharing and tougher employment checks.

Parata said the report had exposed some "serious failings" and provided a "very serious wake-up call" for the whole state sector. However, no-one across the education system had been disciplined over the case.

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"There were system failures rather than people failures," Parata said.

"No one person can be held accountable for an across system [problem]."

The report made 35 recommendations, which were split into 39 actions.

Parata said the Government had accepted or partially accepted 36 of those actions and seven had already been completed. Three were still being considered.

"Miki's case was extreme in the lengths he went to manipulate the system and the people who would normally be expected to detect and deal with such behaviour," Parata said.

"Parents must be able to send their children to school confident that an individual of this type is not part of the school environment."

Identity and employment checks for "bona fide" teachers were working, but there were areas that needed strengthening.

The Department of Internal Affairs was reviewing its policy and processes for name changing and would report back in October.

Corrections had introduced 24 hour tracking of high-risk offenders.

The Teachers Council, currently under review, was the subject of 11 recommendations.

- Stuff

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