21 Aug 2012

Multiple failings let sex offender work in schools

10:00 pm on 21 August 2012

A ministerial inquiry shows failures by agencies including schools, the police and the Corrections Department allowed a convicted child sex offender to work in schools.

In February this year it emerged that Te Rito Miki had worked in six schools in the North Island, despite having more than 60 convictions and being banned from working with children in 2010.

The 41-year-old was jailed for four years and six weeks in May for using false CVs and a forged birth certificate to secure teaching jobs. He had evaded police and Corrections for several years and was able to use aliases and fake university degrees.

Miki was released from jail in 2004. His previous convictions include common assault in New Zealand and Australia, and three of indecent assault on a boy aged 12 to 16 years.

The ministerial report made public on Tuesday says Miki was an accomplished liar who used multiple identities and officially changed his name twice.

However, it also shows that the agencies he deceived could have caught him out. It says the Teachers Council failed to vet Miki with police correctly and that the vetting system twice failed to identify his offending.

A school where Miki was arrested in 2009 for an earlier breach of parole failed to tell the Teachers Council, and police who arrested him did not follow up evidence that he was using a false identity.

The ministerial inquiry found no evidence of careful reference checks by schools that hired Miki and could not understand how he fooled the Corrections Department, which was monitoring him.

The report has made 35 recommendations for change to tighten teacher employment procedures, including an urgent review of name-change law, enhanced police vetting of teachers and the introduction of biometric photographic evidence for anyone seeking teacher registration.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says Miki went to extreme lengths of manipulation and, though the existing system works, the inquiry's findings are a major wake-up call for all organisations involved.

Ms Parata told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Tuesday that ID photos could be used to ensure that people applying for teaching jobs are qualified teachers.

She says she has asked the Ministry of Education for advice on implementing such a system, and staff are working urgently on this.