Victim: Bert Potter's death ensures no reoffending

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Bert Potter. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Bert Potter. Photo / Herald on Sunday

A woman who was part of a group which brought indecent child assault charges against Centrepoint commune leader Bert Potter says only now that he is dead does she know he won't reoffend.

Bert Potter, who had progressive Alzheimer's, died yesterday aged 86 at Middlemore Hospital following a fall at a private hospital on Saturday.

Centrepoint was opened by Potter in 1977 and at its peak had a permit for 244 fulltime residents.

It was based on therapeutic encounter groups popularised in California in the 1960s, promising social transformation by encouraging open communication.

The commune was shut down in 2000 after some leaders, including Potter, were convicted of sexual abuse and drugs crimes.

Potter was convicted and sentenced in 1990 to 3-1/2 years in jail on drug charges, and in 1992 to 7-1/2 years for indecent assaults on five children, some as young as three and a half.

Five other men were convicted of indecently assaulting minors, sexually assaulting minors and attempted rape of a minor.

Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, who was abused at the commune as a child, and was one of 40 people who brought charges against Potter told Radio New Zealand this morning that only now, after his death, does she know he would not abuse another child.

"The point is to make sure that these people don't have access to children and to keep them in places where they simply can't do that and currently in New Zealand we don't have a system that does that and it requires him dying to make sure that they don't reoffend."

The fact Mr Potter remained unrepentant made much of the group angry.

"Bert Potter was a very, very clever, manipulative, charismatic psychopath, very powerful. He affected hundreds of lives, and of those lives, many of their children's lives," she said.

Centrepoint's philosophy included sharing toilets, showers, sleeping quarters and open sexual relations among adults and children.

The community was based on a 30-acre block of land near Albany, Auckland.

In 2000 a High Court decision closed it down and it was reopened as a wellbeing centre in 2008.

Following Potter's release from prison he reportedly said he did nothing wrong and although sex with minors was not inappropriate he would follow the terms of his parole to avoid further jail time.

Potter's children overseas, would be returning to New Zealand for his funeral next Saturday, Ms Goodyear-Smith said.

The funeral details were not finalised, but it was likely to be a simple service where friends and family could share their memories, she said.

- APNZ

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