Music student open to restorative justice meeting with abuser

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Charles Harter served a little more than a third of his three-year, four-month prison sentence for multiple indecent assaults on pre-pubescent girls. Photo / Supplied via TV3
Charles Harter served a little more than a third of his three-year, four-month prison sentence for multiple indecent assaults on pre-pubescent girls. Photo / Supplied via TV3

A music student is open to one day meeting her abuser to help her deal with the "life sentence" the former Havelock North School teacher imposed on her.

The possibility of a restorative justice meeting was raised in a Parole Board decision released yesterday, confirming Charles Harter, 64, is being released on parole this month. He served a little more than a third of his three-year, four-month prison sentence for multiple indecent assaults on pre-pubescent girls.

The board said Harter admitted and appreciated the impact on his victims and showed commitment to rehabilitative programmes. It said "he will not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community or any person or class of person".

However, the board decided Harter must live at an approved Wellington address and cannot enter Hawke's Bay or have contact with any female aged under 16 without specific approval.

They are among eight conditions imposed, any breach of which could lead to Harter being returned to prison.

The report says representatives of one of the victims had indicated the prospect of restorative justice "at some point" to assist them in dealing with what they regarded as a life sentence imposed on themselves.

The restorative justice process starts when a victim indicates they may be prepared to take part and meet with an offender. Restorative justice specialists then meet separately with the parties, assessing such things as motivation and intended outcomes before decisions are made on whether to go ahead.

The board said that at his first hearing in October, when a decision on parole was deferred pending approval of an address for release, Harter had responded with "emotion and evident sincerity to the victims" and acknowledged the trauma and hurt that he had caused to victims, and that he would respond to any restorative justice initiative.

Harter, who had an otherwise unblemished teaching career of 40 years and was well known in musical and theatrical circles, was arrested on August 11, 2014.

Three weeks later he pleaded guilty to nine charges representing multiple indecent assaults on nine primary school musical students and was remanded in custody for sentencing, ultimately to three years and four months' jail.

The assaults had involved mainly touching and tickling the young girls around the chest and in some cases grabbing at the crotch, over their clothing, and patting bottoms.

During his court appearance it was revealed that Harter often suffered depression. The latest bout was thought to have been triggered by the death of Belinda Harter, who was killed with her partner and nine others in the balloon crash on January 7, 2012.

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