Teacher admits groping students

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 15:56 02/09/2014
Charles Harter
FAIRFAX NZ
Charles Harter

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A teacher with a 40-year career has admitted groping girls during music lessons, and police are concerned there could be other victims.  

Charles Harter, 63, pleaded guilty to nine representative charges of indecently assaulting nine girls between February 1 and July 21 this year.  The girls ranged in age from 8 to 11.

Harter was a part-time drama and music teacher at Havelock North Primary School, but has not been employed there since June.

Most of the offending happened while Harter gave the girls lessons at his studio attached to his Havelock North home.

Harter would tickle the girls' breasts and grab their crotches on top of their clothing the Hastings District Court heard.

Harter would carry on the lessons like nothing happened, the police summary states.

One girl kept attending lessons until she could not cope any longer. She broke down and told her mother she did not want to practise the guitar any more and told her about Harter's behaviour. Her mother immediately stopped her daughter's music lessons and told police about the allegations.

Harter also patted girls' bottoms while hugging them after group classes held at the school.

Judge Bridget Mackintosh said Harter would likely face a jail sentence. He was remanded in custody until October 23.

The school successfully applied to have name suppression lifted on Harter last month.

Police had met with parents and teachers and were keeping them informed on the investigation.

Hawke's Bay detective sergeant Nic Clere said it was possible there were more victims in other Hawke's Bay and Wellington schools Harter taught in, who had not yet come forward.

"The investigation team has established that Mr Harter has taught many children during his 40 year teaching career in Hawke's Bay, Wellington and Masterton. 

"While we have spoken to several children so far, there is a possibility there may be more victims that we don't yet know about."

Harter has taught in several schools and written and directed numerous musicals, as well as plays for youths. He taught mathematics at Hutt Valley High School for many years.

In 1982 he founded the Wellington-based Shoe String Theatre Company, which has won national awards in festivals of drama with his works.

In 2001, his script The Magic and the Madness received best script, best production of a New Zealand play and the technical and design and best overall production awards at the New Zealand Theatre Federation's One-Act Play Festival.

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Police have set up an 0800 number and email contact for parents of children who were taught by Harter.

Concerned parents can ring the police in confidence, Clere said.

Parents can contact police on 0800 DAYTON (0800 329866) or email Operation.Daytona@police.govt.nz

- The Dominion Post

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