New Zealand Independent Newspapers

Female teacher says sex with boy, 10, was consensual

New Zealand Independent Newspapers

A female teacher who had a sexual relationship with a 10-year-old pupil is trying to escape conviction, arguing the boy consented.

Faryn Ripine Matthews, 34, resigned from a Tauranga primary school four days after she walked into Palmerston North police station and made a statement that led to her arrest on three sexual violation charges.

She faces trial in Rotorua in February.

Police say the offending happened between December 2001 and September this year. She is now living with relatives in Palmerston North.

Her lawyer, Fergus Steedman, of Palmerston North, confirmed yesterday Matthews developed an emotional attachment to the boy, of whom she had been fond "for some time". A sexual relationship began, he said.

The teacher - whom he said would never work with children again and while on bail is barred from contact with under 16-year-olds - realised that what she had done was "utterly wrong" and was guilty of a breach of trust.

But while it was an offence for an adult male to have sex with an underage female, Steedman said it was not an offence for a woman to have sex with a boy under 16.

"Because of this statutory anomaly, the police had no alternative other than to charge my client with sexual violation. The relevant section of the Crimes Act provides people in my client's position with a defence which, if accepted at trial, operates as a complete bar to conviction.

"Regardless of the eventual outcome of the trial, my client acknowledges that she is guilty of a huge lapse of judgement. She regrets her actions deeply. Her remorse is enormous. That is why she went to the police," said Steedman.

Detective Brett Calkin, the officer in charge, confirmed there were limited protections for boys having sex with women, compared with those for girls and young boys having sex with men.

While Steedman would argue the boy consented to sex, Calkin said police would say that if any consent was given by a 10-year-old, it was not valid.

He said the boy's parents knew he had extensive social contact with the teacher, but were unaware of their sexual relationship.

Once Matthews made her statement, police took immediate steps to protect the boy, arresting her and alerting Child Youth and Family to ensure the boy was safe.

The boy's family was particularly upset that Matthews was now denying the charges.

Matthews had taught at the school from January 1999 until July 2002 when she took extended study leave, and officially resigned on October 9. The school says the offending did not take place there or during school hours.

On Thursday, the school sent a newsletter to parents, reassuring them their children were safe and advising them of the sex charges. Matthews is still a registered teacher and her teaching certificate is due to expire next November.