2 Sep 2016

Kaitaia relieved at guilty plea over drugging, sex assaults on men

10:32 am on 2 September 2016

Community leaders in the Far North are relieved that a former motel owner pleaded guilty to all charges of drugging, indecently assaulting and making videos of young male tourists.

Michael Harris

Michael Harris Photo: Facebook

Michael Harris, who owned the Main Street Lodge in Kaitaia, had been due to stand trial later this month at the High Court in Whangarei.

Police believed he had been drugging, assaulting, and filming young men staying at his lodge over two-and-a-half years.

He was arrested in 2014 and a global appeal by police followed to try to find more of his victims.

Men from Germany, England, Scotland and the United States contacted police concerned that they had been abused by Harris.

At least 14 victims from overseas and one New Zealander laid complaints.

On Thursday in the High Court in Whangarei, Harris pleaded guilty to all charges.

Ricky Houghton, a social worker and community leader in Kaitaia, said it was the best outcome.

"This matter was extremely traumatic," he said. "The community is numb."

"We haven't got up from other recent similar cases and so we do hope that we can heal ourselves as a community and get on with our lives and do what we need to do to build the Far North community. The safer, happier, caring community that we know it is."

He said it was best that Harris pleaded guilty so his victims would not have to go through the trauma of a trial.

Ken Clearwater, from Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, had spoken with some of Harris's victims and thought it would be a huge relief to them that there will be no trial.

"That shame and guilt comes in straight away. So they would have been struggling to deal with it and even to talk about it.

"And they would've even struggled with the police side of it as well, especially as some of them didn't even know what had happened."

Far North Mayor John Carter was also pleased that Harris had pleaded guilty because it would save a lot of people the heartache of dragging up the past again.

"It means the community itself doesn't have to be reminded of this unfortunate event. I'm pleased to say the community has moved on, the lodge is in good hands, it's going particularly well.

"It's good to think that we don't have to be dragged through the thing again," Mr Carter said.

Harris's offending came a year after two other high-profile cases in the region.

Teacher James Parker was sentenced to preventive detention for 74 sexual offences against 20 children.

Businessman Daniel Taylor was sentenced to five years, seven months in jail for nine charges against children and young people.

Michael Harris was remanded in custody until 2 December when he will be sentenced at the High Court in Whangarei.