Principal 'vilified' for suspecting paedophile

By Yvonne Tahana

James Parker. Photo / Supplied
James Parker. Photo / Supplied

A former Northland principal who took her concerns about paedophile teacher James Parker to authorities says she was vilified in Kaitaia for speaking up.

Parker is facing 23 new charges of sexual offending against boys, in addition to 49 charges the former Pamapuria School deputy principal pleaded guilty to earlier this year. A pre-sentence report recommends preventative detention.

Former Oturu School principal Fiona Lovatt Davis said she went to police in 1999 after Parker's then girlfriend, who worked at the school as a teacher aide, told her Parker would leave their bed to sleep with pupils staying at their home.

Before that point no one in the school community, who knew the teacher as Jamie, had any suspicions about him, Ms Lovatt Davis said.

"Parker was a delightful young man, relaxed, sober ... we all loved him and felt he brought some special qualities to our school. I did not have any reason to believe he would become a paedophile.

He was kind of gormless and asexual."

She claims police did not visit the school or follow up the allegation with pupils or the girlfriend, while a representative of teachers' union NZEI picked Parker's side and stuck to it.

Police were unavailable for comment while NZEI did not respond to Weekend Herald inquiries.

Ms Lovatt Davis told Radio New Zealand she was viewed as someone who would "hunt my teachers down as if there was some vendetta rather than just a simple responsibility as an employee of the Crown".

She calls the local union representative a "weak link in the chain" and says she was "vilified" by the community at public meetings for going to police over a man people respected. Rules covering an employment investigation hampered her from speaking out and it was a case which revealed changes were needed.

"I was bound by confidentiality, sharing the information I had with only the police officer and my [board of trustees] chairperson. Jamie was not bound to be confidential. He was free to speak widely in the community, putting a slant on events that cast me as zero and made him a hero."

The relief she felt now at having done the right thing was overshadowed by the pain many children and their families were going through, she said. It was distressing that Parker's former students would be sitting exams just 500m up the road from the Kaitaia District Court, she added.

"It's more important to make sure that every family of every child Jamie ever taught is directly asked, by caring people with considerable expertise, whether they are safe and able to move forward."

Pamapuria School commissioner Larry Forbes has described Parker as a master manipulator who used situations and relationships to continue his offending.

An independent report from lawyer Robin Arthur has found that while many had suspicions, few took any action to stop him. One boy retracted an allegation in part after a discussion with grandparents who told him his teacher's career could be destroyed.

- NZ Herald

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