Sentencing for lodge owner who indecently assaulted guests put off

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Former Kaitaia Lodge owner Michael Harris has had his sentencing on charges of indecent assault and stupefying guests put off. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Former Kaitaia Lodge owner Michael Harris has had his sentencing on charges of indecent assault and stupefying guests put off. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Sentencing for the former owner of a Kaitaia backpacker lodge who indecently assaulted guests and recorded the abuse, has been put off as the Crown wants to seize the property.

Michael Harris, 56, was to be sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei this morning but it was adjourned to February 17 when a date to hear the Crown's application would be set.

Harris earlier pleaded guilty to 42 charges of making and possessing intimate visual recordings of male guests and indecently assaulting them between May 2005 and September 2014.

One of his victims - a foreign tourist - travelled from overseas for the sentencing and was allowed by Justice John Fogarty to read out his victim impact statement.

The man said he did painting and repair work in exchange for board in one of the spare rooms in Harris' house.

He had viewed Harris as a "father figure" and said all seemed "fine and innocent" until the night Harris spiked his drink with temazepam, which is used to treat insomnia.

After one drink of tequila the man said he felt like he was going to pass out, and headed to bed upstairs.

He woke up in the middle of the night to find Harris in bed with his arms around him. The man left the hostel a couple of days later, but was further distressed when Harris contacted him again before he left New Zealand.

He said he felt "dirty" knowing that somebody he had trusted had betrayed him.

"He took me under his wings, cooked meals for me and if I needed to go to the store, he'd drive me."

After the tourist read his victim impact statement, Harris asked if he could respond to the man directly.

"I just wanted to say sorry," Harris said holding back tears.

He rubbed his face and removed his glasses.

"I do sincerely apologise. I'm glad you came today. Thank you."

Harris was arrested on September 10, 2014, after a guest at his Main Street Lodge backpackers laid a complaint with Kaitaia police.

Police seized a camera and a computer from Harris' home and made an international appeal for possible victims to come forward.

His victims were mostly European men aged 18 to 25 who were longer-term guests.

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