Dylan Thorne

Dylan is the deputy editor of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Editorial: We want answers on vetting of worker

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A disturbing case emerged in the Tauranga District Court this week involving a pool attendant at the Otumoetai Pools.

John Trevor Hill, 51, of Bellevue, was convicted of assaulting a 14-year-old girl after he inappropriately hugged her outside the pool complex during one of his work breaks.

Hill was sentenced to 75 hours' community work and ordered to pay $500 emotional harm compensation to his victim.

Hill, who has a previous conviction for assaulting another young girl, is employed by Tauranga City Aquatics, but his latest assault conviction means his future employment at the pools is now under review.

Tauranga City Aquatics is the Tauranga City Council's pools company, which runs the city's community-owned pools.

Police say the offence, which took place during one of his work breaks, was the culmination of earlier approaches to the girl as she walked to and from school which involved him saying "hi pretty girl" and "hi gorgeous".

Hill's past assault conviction against another young girl related to him grabbing her hand outside Otumoetai College, but was intended to prevent her running out on the road, his lawyer said.

The police prosecutor argued circumstances, together with Hill's past similar conviction, brought to mind grooming and the judge agreed, noting Hill had originally been charged with indecent assault, but the charge was reduced.

The judge was concerned about Hill's access to young people in the position he held and the escalation in offending.

Over the years it has often been difficult for men whose work brings them into close proximity with children and cases such as Hill's do nothing to help the matter.

It is unfortunate that cases like this can put a lot of men off working in these sectors and this, in turn, means there is often a lack of positive male role models in many children's lives.

Hill though is not a positive role model and it's people like him who make it harder for men who work with children.

On the face of it, the incidents in this case do seem to be at the lower end of the scale, but it is clear Hill overstepped the mark.

A fact he acknowledged, saying he had been taught in his job not to touch children unless it was an emergency situation.

He also stated that being a father, he would be up in arms if a stranger had hugged his child.

In my view, given his previous assault conviction, Hill should not have been working at a council-owned pool where children go and those who allowed him to work in that position need to front up and explain their vetting processes.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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