A packed public gallery erupted in cheers, tears and high-fives as a schoolteacher cleared of sex charges walked from Palmerston North District Court a free man today.
It took the jury – comprising 10 women and two men – 12 hours to reach its verdicts over the charges against Michael Warren Neville, after being sent out by Judge Les Atkins about 3.15pm yesterday.
Neville, 48, – who at one time held a senior position at the Kapiti-area school where the offences were alleged to have occurred – faced four counts of indecent assaults on girls under 12.
The trauma of an eight-day trial and 18 months of stress in the lead up to it had not diminished his love of teaching, Neville said.
“I still love the profession, even where I work.”
The case highlighted an “occupational hazard” faced by male teachers, the primary school teachers union New Zealand Educational Institute said today.
“NZEI Te Riu Roa has supported Mike throughout this case,” national secretary Lynne Bruce said, welcoming the verdict.
“This case shows the potential vulnerability of teachers in the education system,” she said.
“It highlights an occupational hazard, faced in particular by male teachers.”