Reach out for help, abuse victims urged

By Imran Ali


A Whangarei counselling and social work agency providing support to some of those affected by convicted paedophile James Parker's offending has urged those in similar situations to seek help.

Parker, the former deputy principal of Pamapuria School near Kaitaia, was sentenced at the High Court at Whangarei to preventive detention, with a minimum non-parole period of seven years for over 300 offences involving 20 victims.

Miriam House has been providing therapeutic, social work and counselling for all Northland men and women since 1988, and also does a lot of work around schools.

Director Patsy Henderson-Watt didn't want to discuss individual cases relating to Parker's prolonged offending but said his victims and their families had shown great courage to go through the legal process that culminated in Thursday's sentencing.

She said people found out about her centre through word of mouth and were keen to put their disturbing past behind and move ahead.

"Solution is much more important than the drama of what's happening.

The community needs to have somewhere safe where people can talk about it," she said.

Meanwhile, Teachers' Council director Peter Lind said the sentencing of preventive detention reflected the seriousness of Parker's offending.

He said the vast majority of teachers were committed professionals who did not condone the type of criminal behaviour Parker indulged in.

Dr Lind said under a memorandum of understanding, the Ministry of Education, police, Child, Youth and Family and the Teachers' Council were able to share information about allegations of abuse by those employed within the education sector.

The head of ECPAT Child Alert Trust, Alan Bell, said the sentence of preventive detention was fully warranted, although one may have wished for a longer minimum non-parole. ECPAT or Ending Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking works to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.

"This was a very serious and one of the worst, if not the worst, offending of this type that has changed the lives of many and it's common that people who are sexually abused suffer the trauma for the rest of their lives," Mr Bell said.

Unfortunately, offenders did not seem to understand how deeply their actions affected their victims.

Parker's offending and his subsequent arrest, he said, highlighted the necessity for more stringent vetting of those hired to deal with children in schools, sporting organisations, churches and youth groups.

Te Runanga o Ngati Kahu said it was thanks to Parker that the community expressed its intolerance for the sexual abuse of children, and wider manifestations of a failure to care for the most vulnerable.

"Nothing I have seen in his statements, his behaviour or from his lawyer indicates any real understanding of what he has done," chief executive Anahera Herbert-Graves said.

Long-time Kaitaia resident and editor of the Northland Age, Peter Jackson, said: "Anger and sadness must be succeeded by a resolve to do more to protect children from harm, within the home and beyond it. If that comes to pass, then some good really will have come from the outrageous affront inflicted by James Parker."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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