A New Zealand child abuse organisation says sexual assaults on children at an Eastern Bay of Plenty camp were avoidable.
Child Matters spokesperson Amanda Meynell believes the situation could’ve been prevented if staff background checks had been undertaken.
Matthew Everson, who worked at the camp, is convicted of sexually assaulting eight girls attending the camp.
The name of the school and the location of the camp are suppressed after a judge ruled the camp wasn’t to blame because its staff were unaware of Everson’s past.
Amanda says Everson is responsible for his actions and the significant harm caused to these children and their families.
“However, the camp is also responsible for ensuring anyone they employ is safe to be around children.
“Every organisation that deals with children has a responsibility to keep children safe.
“If an organisation employs people, paid or not, they are responsible for doing all necessary checks to ensure those people are safe to be around children.”
Amanda says carrying out police checks alone will not identify all sexual offenders. “Often those who have committed sexual offences against children will not have been convicted.
“Also, sexual offenders of children often appear very helpful, friendly and charming.
“They use these attributes to gain the trust of children, their families and other professionals.
“It is therefore absolutely necessary to make sure that thorough background checks are carried out.”
She says the safety of children must be a top priority.
“Ensuring that organisations recruit child-safe people is only one part of keeping children safe in an organisation.”