Teacher sentenced to home detention

By Peter de Graaf

A Northland teacher has been sentenced to home detention after using his cellphone to film women in a bathroom and teenage girls in a public changing room.

Reagan Clive Hills, of Kawakawa, appeared in the Kaikohe District Court yesterday for sentencing on four charges - three intentional and one reckless - of making an intimate visual recording.

Hills was a teacher and sports coach at Bay of Islands College in Kawakawa, but lost his job when the offending was discovered in August last year.

The court was told two teenage girls using the changing room showers at a public pool noticed a cellphone on a high ledge. They used a towel to knock the phone down and found it was recording video.

There were three clips on the phone, ranging in length from 15 to about 90 seconds, showing girls in their togs or underwear rinsing themselves.

They handed the phone to a teacher who alerted the principal. Hills was unable to explain the videos.

Forensic analysis of the phone's memory card showed an earlier video clip of two women, recorded in June and about 15 minutes long, had been deleted. It had been taken in a bathroom when the phone was hidden by a laundry basket.

Judge Grant Fraser said Hills' breach of trust was "flagrant and profound", especially from someone who was supposed to protect students' well-being.

"The offending is inexplicable for someone in your position ... the loss of your teaching profession is an absolute tragedy considering how long you would have struggled to get yourself through university, then training college, to pursue the career you wanted."

In her victim impact statement, one of the girls spoke of her shock and upset, and how she no longer trusted teachers but questioned what they were really like.

In Hills' favour was his early guilty plea, remorse and previous good character. References spoke of his hard work, commitment to youth and seemingly boundless energy.

He had been through a restorative justice process, which had been an emotional and searching experience, and had deleted the first video in disgust at his actions.

Judge Fraser said he was tempted to impose a jail sentence to denounce the offending and deter others, but that would not be in the interests of the community, Hills or his family.

The community would be better served by seeing him rehabilitated and employed, though Hills himself acknowledged his teaching days were over.

He was sentenced to six months' home detention followed by 12 months' post-detention conditions, and 200 hours' community work.

- Northern Advocate

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