Allegations of Sexual Abuse
The mother of a girl who accused a teacher of sexually assaulting her says she was told by police that the man was a paedophile and they knew he was guilty.
Kapiti teacher Michael Neville, found not guilty on four charges of indecent assault in Palmerston North District Court on Thursday, is considering legal action against police for the handling of the investigation.
Four former pupils had accused him of sexually assaulting them between 1999 and 2003. He was arrested on September 23 last year.
Mr Neville was relaxing at his Levin home with wife Adele and family yesterday. For 18 months, he had lived under the cloud of the allegations and was delighted to be free of them. "I'm still up on the ceiling. We're just so relieved and delighted."
Mr Neville is considering laying a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority and said legal action for compensation was a possibility. The eight-day court case cost at least $130,000, most of which was paid by the primary teachers' union. "But we spent about $28,000 of our own."
He says he was treated as a criminal by police "from the word go". The officers who arrested him came to his house at 8am in black clothes and black wrap-around sunglasses. They would not let him dress alone, and told his wife: "He's our prisoner, we'll go where we like."
"It really was bizarre. Like straight out of a movie," Mr Neville said. During his police interview he was called "scum of the earth" and told by police that they knew he was guilty, he said.
He is also angry about a free-call "hotline" set up to take other complaints, and about a letter sent to selected parents of pupils that appeared to state the initial allegation as a fact.
Detective Sergeant Peter Govers said he stood by the "professional and thorough" handling of the case. "They are entitled to their opinions and if they want to make a complaint they are entitled to it."
The mother of the first complainant, whose daughter accused Mr Neville of touching her genitals in class, said yesterday the family was devastated by the outcome of the case. However, they did not blame police for the acquittal.
"The police knew he was guilty from the beginning. They said to me that he fitted the profile of a paedophile from the word go."
She believed the jury had been swayed by the presence of Mr Neville's supporters in court.
She said her daughter was so upset by the verdicts that she had stayed home from school. "She said: `Why, Mum, why? Why don't they believe me?' "
Mr Neville said he would like to return to his former school, but its position on taking him back was unclear. He believed he would have the opportunity to meet the board of trustees and union representatives to discuss his reinstatement.
The school chairman said yesterday it would go through an "employment process in accordance with legal advice" before commenting on re-employment.
Out from under a cloud: Michael and Adele Neville at their home in Levin yesterday. `We're just so relieved and delighted,' he said. Picture: Winton Cleal