Ex-Dilworth student tells abuser he's 'being held accountable'

Kim Baker Wilson
Source: 1News

A former Dilworth staffer has been told by one of his victims of sexual abuse he often thinks what his life would have been like if he never met him.

Alister Grant Harlow has been jailed for three years and eight months for offending over several years that included touching students' genitals.

He'd faced several charges of indecent assault and one of attempted sexual violation.

It happened both at and away from school.

Harlow was an assistant house master which meant he lived at the school while working outside of it as an accountant.

He is the fifth ex-Dilworth School staffer to be sentenced in the wake of Operation Beverly, the police operation looking into sexual offending.

Alister Grant Harlow at his sentencing

Four victim impact statements were given in the Auckland District Court on Friday afternoon.

One of Harlow's victims had only just become a teenager when he was first touched.

It wouldn't be the last time, and it would last for years.

The summary of facts says Harlow orchestrated situations to be alone with the boy and on one trip started to touch and cuddle him.

Harlow said the boy "made a good pillow" and that his hands were cold.

But on another trip it progressed to putting his hands under the boy's shirt and claiming he was warming them.

Several times in 1988, when the boy was aged between 14 and 15, Harlow slid his hand up his leg while he was wearing shorts and grabbed hold of his genitals.

The boy would roll away but Harlow would then try to touch his buttocks and try to digitally penetrate him.

"On each occasion the boy felt powerless to stop the advances due to Mr Harlow's overriding role in his life," the summary of facts said.

Harlow as 28 at the time.

When he was 30, the boy was 17 and living on a boat.

Harlow organised a visit and a stay with the teenager.

When they went to sleep he pushed his hands down the boy's pants without warning and again grabbed his genitals and tried to penetrate him.

The next year, in 1991, Harlow arranged for the same teen to help him work at a family property in Northland.

The teacher put up a small two-person tent and there was no way for the boy to get home meaning he had to spend the night.

He unzipped the boy's sleeping bag in the night and grabbed his genitals.

And again, he tried to digitally penetrate him.

"I have waited more than 30 years to tell you how your actions wrecked my life," the victim told Harlow in court on Friday.

Harlow did not look at the man as he was speaking.

Talking through tears, the former student told Harlow how he's needed ongoing counselling, that his marriage failed, and that he hasn't been able to work.

"Finally you face your moment of truth where the veneer of your life has been removed," he said.

"Today I finally feel free of the burden I have carried all these years."

In 1992, Harlow's target was another boy, aged 12.

Harlow was 32 and made arrangements for the student to work on his property.

The boy woke in the night to find Harlow's hands down his underpants.

On Friday, that former student told Harlow he still carries mental scars from the offending.

"I must have looked like easy prey for you back then, and I was."

"I do not believe for a moment that you are sorry," he told Harlow and the court.

Between 1994 and 1995 and also at his property, Harlow unzipped another boy's sleeping bag in the night and touched his genitals.

The boy was 12 years old.

Also in 1994, when Harlow was 34, he got into the bed of an 11-year-old boarding student and was found there by a matron.

He had no cause to be at the school or in the dorm at the time.

The summary of facts says the psychological impact on the victims has been "immense", and for many of them it is irreparable.

Sentencing for Harlow, now in his early 60s, came the same day an independent inquiry into the abuse of students at Dilworth began.

His lawyer read a statement he'd penned, in which he apologised to the former students.

"To each of you I want to tell you I'm so so sorry... I know I'm responsible for hurting you."

"Your trust was abused and your innocence was taken away from you, by me," he said in the statement.

Harlow said through his lawyer he feared a knock on the door for 30 years but never had the courage to tell anyone about what he did.

He joins other Dilworth former staff Ian Wilson, Ross Browne, Graeme Lindsay and Jonathan Stephens in being sentenced.

Another man, Leonard Cave, was found guilty by a jury at the start of June and will be sentenced next month.

In jailing Harlow, Judge Mary-Beth Sharp said she'd been a judge for a very long time.

"And it's fair to say I have seldom been as moved as I am by what I have heard from the victims," she told Harlow.

"The impact of what you did to them I will never forget, and I hope you never forget either. They have suffered immeasurably."

"I feel their pain," Judge Sharp said.

"I don't doubt for a single solitary moment that their lives have been miserable beyond compare as a result or what you did to them."

"As far as I'm concerned all of the offending against all the victims was horrific," the judge said.