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Union opens abuse inquiry

By Yvonne Tahana

Probe into what teachers' group knew about paedophile and damning email.

James Parker is facing 23 new charges of sexual offending against boys, in addition to the 49 charges he pleaded guilty to earlier this year. Photo / TVNZ
James Parker is facing 23 new charges of sexual offending against boys, in addition to the 49 charges he pleaded guilty to earlier this year. Photo / TVNZ

What a teachers' union knew about paedophile James Parker in 1999 is being investigated, as is an email that is critical of the woman who raised the issue.

Parker, formerly deputy principal of Pamapuria School in Kaitaia, is facing 23 new charges of sexual offending against boys, in addition to the 49 charges he pleaded guilty to earlier this year.

Last week, Fiona Lovatt Davis, a former principal at Oturu School, which is also in the Far North, told Radio New Zealand she went to police in 1999 with concerns which arose when Parker's then-girlfriend told her Parker would leave their bed to sleep with pupils staying at their home.

Both Parker and his girlfriend worked at the school.

Ms Lovatt Davis claimed police did not follow up at the time and told the Herald that a meeting took place between her, Parker and a union representative - who she described as a "field officer" from teachers' union the New Zealand Educational Institute, but who also was on staff at Pamapuria.

That meeting was not about the girlfriend's allegation because Ms Lovatt Davis said she'd only told the police and a board member about it. The meeting discussed Parker's registration, specifically that he wasn't meeting the standards to become a fully registered teacher. Parker brought up the fact that she had called police, Ms Lovatt Davis said.

"The NZEI field officer received all her news from Jamie and from Jamie supporters," Ms Lovatt Davis said.

"The report from his girlfriend was not an allegation of sexual abuse. It was a story she told that seemed to need an investigation and a reminder to Jamie to guard his professionalism. I believe he used our discipline meeting [with the NZEI field officer] to accuse me of taking an embittered girlfriend's vicious story too seriously. Once they had reunited, she saw no need to pursue the story.

"I would suggest that NZEI field officers are not drawn directly from the wider community. The field officer should be an impartial person, free from the town gossip. In Kaitaia the gossip ran against me and pro Jamie. She bought it all and dressed me down in that meeting. Both of them did. It was very unpleasant."

Yesterday a spokeswoman for the NZEI said an investigation was under way. Asked whether it would look at what the union knew about the allegation surrounding Parker in 1999, she said: "NZEI is conducting an internal investigation into the comments made by Ms Lovatt Davis."

It is also conducting a separate investigation after the union's legal services director, John Robson, accidentally emailed the Herald about who Ms Lovatt Davis might have dealt with.

"Field officers don't have schools so it may be that Ms L-D was in fact not referring to an NZEI staffer, and maybe a principal with some kind of profile as an NZEI activist. I'll keep you posted." Regarding Ms Lovatt Davis, he also said: "She was the bane of [lawyer] david [sic] Martin's life and in our joint view, one or two sandwiches short of the proverbial."

In response Ms Lovatt Davis said: "If their chat is about me you can see how easy it is for a paedophile to present himself as having the full complement of sandwiches for the proverbial. They can enjoy the knowledge that together they chose not to believe a creative teacher and to favour a child molester. So even now NZEI fails."

- NZ Herald

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