Ex-teacher pleads guilty to indecent-assault

By Sam Hurley

Police looking for more victims in indecent-assault case

Charles Harter.
Charles Harter.

Police believe there are possibly more victims of a former Havelock North school teacher who pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting his female students.

Charles John Michael Harter, 63, was a music, mathematics and drama teacher who taught 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 7 to 12, involved Harter inappropriately touching his students over and under their school uniforms.

One further charge of indecent assault was withdrawn at Hastings District Court yesterday afternoon.

Detective Sergeant Nic Clere, of Hawke's Bay CIB, said the investigation into Harter's offending was ongoing and it was possible there were more victims in the community who had not yet come forward to police.

The court was told how one victim had weekly guitar lessons during school terms from February to July this year and before 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 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 among 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 he would be sentenced to prison, 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.

Mr Clere said police were following positive lines of inquiry but were keen to hear from other possible victims.

"Police have met with the Havelock North Primary School board of

trustees and parents of children at the school to inform them of the investigation process.

"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.

"If parents have any concerns or questions about the investigation and/or any concerns about their children who were taught by Mr Harter, they can ring the investigation team in confidence and we will explain the investigation process with them," Mr Clere said.

• Police have set up an 0800 number and email contact for parents of children who were taught by Harter. Parents can contact police via:

0800 DAYTON - 0800 329866; Operation.Daytona@police.govt.nz

- Hawkes Bay Today

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