9 May 2014

Teacher jailed for sex with pupils

7:12 pm on 9 May 2014

A school teacher jailed for sexually abusing his students tried to escape trial by pasting his photo into his brother-in-law's passport to leave the country.

Damian Christopher Gillard's own lawyer described the attempt as "amateur".

Gillard was sentenced at the Manukau District Court on Friday after being convicted for touching students, offering one money for sex and having sex with a former student who was aged just 14 at the time.

The judge said he showed no remorse for his victims.

He worked as a teacher for 18 years during which time he represented Counties Manukau in rugby.

Crown prosecutor Yelena Yelavich said Gillard was known as "Mr G" and the "cool teacher"

who let students skip class and hang out at his office.

Judge Charles Blackie said society demanded high-standards of teachers who were trusted by parents to look after their kids but Gillard grossly abused that trust.

The court heard how some of the offending happened at sleepovers at the local marae.

That initially included kissing and touching young girls. On one occasion he frisked a girl on the pretext of searching her for cigarettes.

But the offending got worse. Gillard was found guilty of offering one of his 15 year-old students money for sex.

Judge Blackie said the girl told school authorities but no action was taken.

Radio New Zealand spoke to the principal of the school where Gillard was teaching at the time.

He said no complaint came to him and, if it had, it would have been taken seriously.

The principal said later on he was approached by a person who said a family member had a sexual complaint relating to Gillard.

The principal said he encouraged the person to go to the police and Gillard was later arrested.

But Gillard wasn't only working as a teacher. He took a part-time job at a nightclub on Auckland's Karangahape Rd.

Text message traffic found on his phone by the police showed he was dealing in small amounts of methamphetamine, about $6000 worth.

While working one night, he met one of his former students, who was just 14, and took her home. He had sex with her twice.

Consent irrelevant - judge

Gillard's lawyer Simon Lance said the sex was consensual and Gillard thought the girl was over 16 but Judge Blackie said Gillard had been the girl's form teacher and must have known her age.

Judge Blackie said consent was irrelevant because of the girl's age. At the time Gillard was nearly three times her age.

Judge Blackie said Gillard's victims all had long lasting effects. Some talked of behavioural problems and issues of trust.

One of the girls spoke of how Gillard made her feel special but in actual fact he was only grooming her.

Another was an A-grade student who dropped out of school after being abused.

Judge Blackie said Gillard showed no remorse for his actions and while on bail had pasted his photo into his brother-in-law's passport. The poor attempt was easily foiled by authorities.

In total, Judge Blackie sentenced Gillard to nine-and-a-half years in prison. He must serve at least half that sentence before being eligible for parole.

Mr Lance said Gillard was considering appealing against the sentence, with both of them very disappointed at the length.

"I won't say exactly what I was expecting but substantially less than what he received. There's not been any suggestion he would be filing an appeal against his convictions but I'm certainly considering an appeal against the length of the sentence."