CYF caregiver jailed for abusing children

A Whangarei teacher who sexually abused two girls and physically abused six children placed in his care by Child Youth and Family has been jailed for over 14 years.

The sentencing judge described the man's significant offending as a huge breach of trust that will have lifelong effects on his victims.

Taite Hemi Kupa, 57, was sentenced in the High Court at Whangarei today after being found guilty by a jury on three counts of rape; six of unlawful sexual connection; and one each of attempted rape and attempted unlawful sexual connection. The sex convictions relate to two girls, who were aged 10 and 14 at the time.

He was also sentenced on nine counts of assault on a child aged under 14 and one of assault on a female (a 14-year-old girl). The offending happened between August 2011 and February 2013 at the Whangarei CYF family home Kupa and his wife were in charge of.

The violence charges related to six children, including the two girls who were also sexually abused, and involved kicking them in the backside or pulling their ears when they were deemed naughty.

The two girls read their victim impact statements to the court today, with both emotionally describing the damage Kupa's offending has had on them.

One girl said she felt guilty about the offending and had trouble sleeping, often waking up from nightmares. Both said Kupa was supposed to make them feel safe, but they felt scared.

The mother of one of the abused girls said she felt guilt for what had happened and no longer trusted CYF as her daughter was supposed to be safe in its care.

Justice Raynor Asher said the sexual offending was serious and involved a huge breach of trust, not just the trust of the children, but CYF and the community that had expected him to provide a safe home for the vulnerable children.

Justice Asher said a starting point for sentencing on the sex offences was 15-and-a-half years' imprisonment. The rape and unlawful sexual connection charges have maximum terms of 20 years.

But after taking into account aggravating and mitigating circumstances, including Kupa's previous good character, the judge came to an end term of 14-and-a-half years' imprisonment on the rape and unlawful sexual connection charges.

Kupa was given seven-year terms for the attempted rape and attempted unlawful sexual connection charges and one month for each of the assault charges. All terms were to be served concurrently, meaning a total end sentence of 14-and-a-half years' jail.

Justice Asher also imposed a minimum jail term of seven years and three months' jail before Kupa would become eligible for parole. Kupa sat or stood quietly in the dock during sentencing.

- By Mike Dinsdale of the Northern Advocate

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