Monday, October 12, 2020
The New Zealand Lawyers & Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has censured an attorney with conditions ("undertakings") in what it called a "sad and tragic" case involving two similar incidents
The first of the offences took place in June 2015 when a boy, aged 12 years at the time, was at a local mall with friends. The group was seated at a table. The victim was leaning against it, as there were not enough seats. As Mr Harker walked past the victim, he intentionally touched the victim’s buttocks with his hand, in a motion that was described as more forceful than a “passing brush”. Mr Harker did not move away immediately. When the victim turned to see what had touched him, Mr Harker was about 5 metres away. He is described as “stopping, looking back and staring at” the victim.
The second incident occurred in April 2017 and involved a boy aged 10 years at the time. He, together with his parents, was at a local shopping mall. They walked into a store. Mr Harker followed them. Shortly after, the victim and his parents left. Mr Harker continued to follow them. After all of them had travelled to the second floor of the mall on an escalator, Mr Harker walked towards the victim, and lightly patted his right buttock with the palm of his hand.
Plainly, the touching of each victim was deliberate. The District Court Judge’s sentencing notes reveal that both victims were emotionally affected by what happened. Each regarded the behaviour as unusual. Both were concerned that they (or other children) might be at risk of similar acts being committed in the future.
He had sought therapy
We accept that Mr Harker has done as much as could possibly have been done to rehabilitate and consider that he is well along the path to redemption.
The tribunal concluded that the conduct reflected on fitness to practice. (Mike Frisch)