Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Teacher abuse: 'They told me I was lying'

James Parker "stoutly denied" any wrongdoing during a 2009 police interview when a boy complained he had been sexually abused by the former deputy school principal.

The boy was left to face his pain alone, while Parker went on to commit countless more offences against vulnerable youngsters on his Northland farm.

Parker, former deputy principal of Pamapuria School near Kaitaia, was handed a sentence of preventive detention with a minimum 7 years imprisonment by Justice Paul Heath in the High Court at Whangarei today.

Parker had earlier admitted 74 sex charges relating to sleepovers with boys at his Awanui farm between 1999 and 2012.

Many of the charges are representative and relate to more than one incident. The court was told he was responsible for over 300 acts against his 20 victims.

The boy who came forward in 2009 gave a heart-wrenching account of his ordeal to the court today.

"I told some of my own family members about it but they didn't believe me. They told me I was lying. I remember them saying 'he wouldn't do that'. This made me start to hate my family because they believed you over me," he told Parker.

The boy said he was bullied and teased at school, lost friends and even contemplated suicide because of what Parker did to him.

"I blame you for a lot of my sad feelings, for my anger.

"I think you're sick, eh."

Police were alerted about the boy's complaint but he withdrew the allegation.

Speaking outside court after sentencing, Detective Mark Dalzell, of Kaitaia's child protection unit, said the only thing police could do at that time was interview Parker.

"He was robustly interviewed by the officer in charge of the investigation and he was given every opportunity to confess but the allegations were stoutly denied."

It wasn't until 2012 when one boy, who in Mr Dalzell's view was "an absolute hero", came forward.

"Without any support from any other complainants, he came forward and talked to us about what had happened."

Police used the interview with him as the basis for their case, which Mr Dalzell said transpired to be the worst that he had ever encountered.

The boy was one of many people who spoke in court of the hurt Parker had caused them, their families, and the close-knit community.

In sentencing Parker to preventive detention, Justice Heath said he was not satisfied a finite sentence would adequately protect society.

"I believe there is information that indicates a tendency for you to commit similar offences in the future. Past behaviour is the best predicator of future behaviour."

Preventive detention is where an offender is held in custody until the Parole Board is of the view that they are no longer a risk to the community. Even then the offender is on life parole and supervised and monitored forever. If they reoffend they can be recalled to prison for the rest of their life.

Child, Youth and Family Te Tai Tokerau regional director Marion Heeney said it was clear to see the impact Parker's offending had had on some of the boys.

"Shame, anger, lack of trust. And that's manifesting itself in some behaviours that those boys are displaying, and understandably so.

"But you also saw today in court a lot of courage and a lot of mana from those boys and I think if we can support them as a community and get the right interventions in place they'll be okay."

- NZ Herald

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