Sex-abuse teacher gets 7 years' jail

FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2014

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The mother of a victim described the sexual abuse suffered by her son at the hands of a former South Waikato assistant principal as the killing of her boy's childhood and innocence.

Rueben James Parinui Tapara, 33, a former assistant principal of Te Wharekura o te Kaokaoroa o Patetere in Putaruru was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment on 10 charges of sexual abuse against young boys and one charge of selling or supplying cannabis, when he appeared in the Hamilton District Court yesterday. The charges related to three young boys from the Putaruru school.

Tapara received a 40 per cent reduction in his starting sentence of 12 years for showing "genuine remorse", co-operation with police and an early guilty plea.

Appearing via audio visual link to the court, Tapara cried when a mother's victim impact statement was read.

The mother of one of the boys, know to the court as "victim A" described the horror of her son being sexually abused by the teacher.

"It makes me sick the offender killed my son's childhood, he scarred my son with terrible memories that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. He killed his innocence," she told the court.

The mother said the offending against her son had taken its toll.

"I have not had a full night's sleep since finding out about what you did to my son. Every night I have nightmares," she said.

The court heard that on a number of occasions the victim was taken to a school room during school hours by Tapara where the offending occurred.

It also heard the offending, in relation to one victim, went on for three years, and the victim was taken to hotels, reserves and a home in Otorohanga.

Two other victims were referred to by the court as B and C. During class hours Tapara would fondle the two victims separately, the court heard.

The victims were aged between 12 and 14 at the time of the offending.

The court heard the victims were paid with money, lollies and V drinks by Tapara.

Through his lawyer, James Gurnick, Tapara expressed in a letter to the court his remorse for his actions.

"Through my actions I have caused so much suffering and for that I have no-one to blame but myself. I realise I cannot retract the hurt I've caused with words alone and that I must prove through my actions that sorry is not just a word. I'm terribly regretful and also very angry with myself for doing what I did. I have no excuses to give," Tapara's letter said.

Tapara said he had received warnings and threats in prison which scared him "to no end".

Judge Barney Thomas condemned Tapara's actions as "gross abuse of trust" not only to the victims involved but to his community, school and colleagues.

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Te Wharekura o te Kaokaoroa o Patetere principal Keith Silveira described the sentence as "closure" for what had been a tumultuous year.

"Our work now will be towards ensuring the on-going support we have given our students remains strong." he said.

The school's lawyer, Arama Ngapo-Lipscombe, said the matter was still on-going for the school.

"The sentencing is only one part of the process for the school. An independent investigation will be undertaken in order to provide the parents and school community with confidence that the children are safe."

A Fairfax Media investigation last year found that, in 2004, Tapara had been investigated by his previous school, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Oparure, in Te Kuiti for allegedly touching a young boy at the school.

An internal investigation was conducted, but police were not notified and no action was taken due to lack of evidence.

A reference letter written in 2008 by Hirere Moana, his principal when the allegation was made in 2004, praised his professionalism and leadership skills and said she had "no hesitation" in supporting his application for a new job.

Tapara used the reference to get a job at Te Wharekura o te Kaokaoroa o Patetere in Putaruru, where he became assistant principal. The principal of the Putaruru school has said he was not informed of the investigation in 2004.

- Waikato Times

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