Former teacher pleads guilty to indecent assault

By Sam Hurley

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Charles Harter
Charles Harter

A former Havelock North school teacher has pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting his female students.

Charles John Michael Harter, 63, was a music, mathematics and drama teacher who tought students from his home studio and between October 2012 and June 2014 also taught music and drama at Havelock North Primary School.

The nine counts of indecent assaults, against nine young girls aged between 7 and 12, involved Harter inappropriately touching his students over and under their school uniforms.

One further charge of indecent assault was withdrawn at the Hastings District Court this afternoon.

One victim had weekly guitar lessons during school terms between February and July this year and prior to the lessons had attended large group lessons at Havelock North Primary School with Harter.

Harter would say "time for your lesson", before reaching over the top of the victim's shoulders and placing his hands on her breasts, before "jiggling" her private parts with his fingers.

She continued attending music lessons until she could no longer cope and told her mother that she no longer felt comfortable with Harter's behaviour. Her mother withdrew her from the classes and reported the indecent assaults to police.

A second victim was also indecently assaulted on several occasions before she broke down crying and disclosed to her mother what was occurring to her and her friend, also a victim, before the police were notified.

Another victim was part of a music and drama group at Havelock North Primary School, where she and a classmate were inappropriately touched.

The two victims spoke about Harter's behaviour amongst themselves and wrote a letter to their teacher asking him to stop making them feel uncomfortable before also informing the school's principal.

The remaining victims were abused in similar circumstances at Harter's home and at the school. Harter had stated he believed one of his victims was encouraging the behaviour and was happy with it.

He admitted the entirety of the offending to police and said he became sexually aroused when he touched his students.

Judge Bridget Mackintosh remanded Harter in custody until his sentencing on October 23.

She said Harter had abused his "position of trust" and believed Harter would be given a prison sentence, given the nature and scale of the offending,

Harter was initially granted interim name suppression however his name was revealed after an application by the Havelock Primary School Board stressed the need for his name to be made public.

Hawke's Bay Police released a statement this afternoon, following Harter's guilty pleas, urging any more victims to come forward as further investigations into the 63-year-old continue.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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