Former Victim Support head jailed for sexual abuse

David John Charteris. Photo: ODT files
David John Charteris. Photo: ODT files
The former head of southern Victim Support has been jailed for 14 years for the repeated sexual abuse of a boy more than 20 years ago.

Dunedin-based David John Charteris (65) appeared in the Christchurch District Court this afternoon after being found guilty of seven charges of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and one of indecency with a boy.

He can now be named after his suppression lapsed after two and a half years under wraps.

The defendant – who continues to maintain his innocence - spent several years running the southern region’s Victim Support team and according to online profiles "retired" in 2018 despite being charged with the offending in April 2017.

Victim Support has acknowledged it received an anonymous complaint about Charteris while he was in his role and it "could have handled this situation better".

Chief executive Kevin Tso said the defendant was never employed in a "client-facing role" and that he was stood down as soon as charges were laid.

However, he confirmed the anonymous information passed on about Charteris should have been referred to police and it was not.

"Since then, we have begun thoroughly reviewing our processes to prevent anything of this nature occurring again," Mr Tso said.

"It’s imperative that victims are at the centre of the justice process, and that we lead by example."

Charteris, also an ex-photographer for The Press newspaper based in Christchurch, was originally charged in Dunedin but the case was moved north.

The victim took aim at Charteris in a statement read in court today, which Judge Raoul Neave called "a powerful document".

"David knew from life experience I was easy pickings and yet he exploited that in the most despicable way," the victim said.

It had, he told the court, resulted in "a life sentence of guilt, anger and turmoil".

The victim, who now had children of his own, had experienced significant mental-health issues and distrust in others because of his childhood trauma.

Charteris, he said, must have known the positions of trust he held in the community would have acted as a barrier to him coming forward.

"My life stalled for an extended period of time," he said.

Charteris came into his victim’s life when the boy’s parents had split up in the late 1990s.

He helped the mother with childcare and took her son on excursions.

The defendant betrayed her trust "in the most terrible way", the judge said.

The pair hit it off "from the word ‘go’", Charteris said at trial.

But it was not long before the man’s attention took a sexual turn.

Through 1999, the boy stayed overnight at his abuser’s Christchurch home several times, which was when the violations began.

"Most days that I saw him privately involved at the very least . . . skin on skin you know, touch, masturbation, kissing, what was a very very common occurrence," the victim said at trial in March.

He estimated he was violated in the most painful way up to a couple of dozen times.

There were other trips – several to the Waimakariri River and one to Banks Peninsula – where Charteris abused the boy after finding isolated areas where they would not be disturbed.

The final indecency came when he joined the family on a New Year’s camping trip to Golden Bay.

Charteris slept in a tent with the victim and another boy.

With adults sleeping just metres away, he performed lewd acts on him and enticed the same from him.

"I remember comments like, you know, that this is naughty or our secret or exciting, that sort of thing, certainly not the case for me," the victim told the court at trial.

Five years after the months-long period of abuse, the boy’s mother found out about what happened and a police complaint came shortly afterwards.

It was 11 years later that the victim was interviewed again by police and the allegations were levelled at Charteris.

Defence counsel Anselm Williams confirmed his client continued to deny he committed the repeated violations.

He said there was no suggestion of other conduct of this type in the defendant’s past.

Judge Neave said the fact the victim’s mother turned to Charteris would "haunt her for the rest of her life".

He refused to impose a minimum non-parole period but said the defendant would remain behind bars as long as he continued his stance of innocence.

Judge Neave gave the man credit for his "excellent character" and the work he had done in the community.

It is understood Charteris will appeal the convictions.