A Kaitaia backpackers owner who drugged, indecently assaulted and filmed his guests has had his prison term reduced on appeal.

Michael Harris was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for his crimes against 19 male tourists who stayed at Main Street Backpackers between 2005 and 2014.

His offending was only discovered when the friend of one of his victims became suspicious at his mate's lack of memory the morning after they stayed at the lodge.

Harris chose his victims, inviting them to stay in his home at the lodge in exchange for carrying work.


But he would give his victims a drink - spiked with the sedative Temazepam.

They would then experience a rapid onset of tiredness. Some awoke during the night to find Harris spooning them, others recalled Harris telling them he loved them.

Some victims recalled a light flashing, as if a camera were being used, but others could not recall the offending at all.

Harris appealed his sentence at a Court of Appeal hearing in September before Justice Forrest Miller, Justice Joe Williams and new Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann.

Today, the Court of Appeal quashed the original sentence imposed by Justice John Fogerty in the High Court at Whangārei last year.

Harris will now serve a new prison stint of five years and four months.

His crimes were extensive. He plead guilty to 42 charges which included 12 of stupefying his victims, one of attempting to stupefy, 15 of indecent assault, seven of making an intimate visual recording, and seven of possessing an intimate visual recording.

A handcuffed Michael Harris being led to the Kaitaia police station by Detective Richard Garton. Photo / Peter De Graaf
A handcuffed Michael Harris being led to the Kaitaia police station by Detective Richard Garton. Photo / Peter De Graaf

Justice Fogerty utilised a starting point of nine years' imprisonment, but reduced it to eight years to take into account Harris' guilty plea and his remorse.


On appeal, Harris' Wayne McKean argued the starting point was too high.

He also contended insufficient recognition was given to his client for the guilty plea, remorse, and the time Harris spent on restrictive bail conditions.

Allowing the challenge, the Court of Appeal re-sentenced Harris and adopted a starting point of seven years' imprisonment.

The appeal judges also reduced the term by three months for a court forfeiture order of about $17,700 after the lodge was sold in a mortgagee sale.

A 15 per cent discount was allowed for his guilty plea and a further discount of 5 per cent for remorse.

"We thereby arrive at a final sentence of five years and four months' imprisonment for all of the offending," the Court of Appeal ruled.