Rob Kidd is a NZME. News Service court reporter based in Auckland.

Principal slams bus company for 'totally inappropriate' actions

Jeremia Tavita Simi was convicted of indecent assault at Manukau District Court last week. Photo / Supplied
Jeremia Tavita Simi was convicted of indecent assault at Manukau District Court last week. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland high school principal has slammed a bus company's actions as "totally inappropriate" after it let a driver transport students while facing a sex charge.

Jeremia Tavita Simi, 57, was convicted of indecent assault at Manukau District Court last week and subsequently dismissed by NZBus after losing the passenger endorsement on his driving licence.

But he confirmed to the Herald his employer allowed him behind the wheel after the police had charged him.

"[NZBus] investigated me and believed I wasn't a dangerous person to the public," Simi said.

"To me it was ok because for 17 years with the company, I never had any problems."

But the principal of the girls' school whose students he was carrying was more concerned.

"It was totally inappropriate and I can't understand why they would even consider doing it," she said.

"You never know whether something even worse is going to come out of a [police] investigation."

She and the head of the board of trustees would be contacting NZBus to voice their "outrage", she said.

Since last week's sentencing, NZBus has gone to ground on the matter saying it does not comment on employment issues.

When asked for comment again yesterday regional operations manager Darek Koper would not respond directly to questions regarding whether the company believed it appropriate for anyone facing sex charges to be driving buses.

"As stated before, we review our processes regularly, and following the recent outcome we will look at any learnings from it and apply changes as appropriate," he said.

Simi's victim said she felt "severely let down" by NZBus.

"If that was my kid I'd say: 'how dare you put a sexual predator in charge of them'."

Despite pleading guilty to a charge of indecent assault, Simi said the woman he was supposed to be tutoring "had a part to play" in the incident.

The court heard how the 57-year-old forced himself on the younger woman after walking her to the back seats of the bus but he claimed it was her who had grabbed his hand and led him.

And when they kissed, she did not pull away initially, Simi said.

When informed of his version of events, the woman was gobsmacked.

"He didn't give me a little kiss. He forced his tongue in my mouth," she said.

When the pair reached the bus station shortly afterwards, Simi slipped his hand under her shirt and touched her stomach.

He told the Herald the garment was blowing in the wind and he was trying to flatten it.

"I blame myself for kissing her but I didn't know what she was trying to do," he said.

"I believe she was setting me up."

The victim had a different explanation.

"He doesn't want to get into trouble with his church and his wife," she said.

Speaking from his Mt Wellington house, Simi said he was devastated to lose his job and was looking forward to completing his 60 hours of community work before seeking new employment.

"If I had money I'd fight to appeal this case," he said. "I just cry and I hate myself for this."

- NZ Herald

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