In April 2014, the Gisborne Police Child Protection Team (CPT) commenced an investigation after they were alerted to an allegation of inappropriate contact between Sam Back, an intermediate school teacher, and Reiha McLelland, a 13 year old student.
Police completed the CPT investigation in June 2014, concluding that there was insufficient evidence of criminal offending. On 1 August 2014, Reiha died in Gisborne Hospital and her death was referred to the Coroner.
In April 2017, after attending both the Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal hearing and the Coroner's inquest, Reiha's parents made a complaint to the Authority raising a number of concerns.
The Authority conducted an independent investigation and found that:
The Authority also found that the Police's initial consultation with Child, Youth and Family (CYF) was delayed. While Police policy at the time did not require a 'multi-agency' approach to the investigation, Police should have further considered how the information they held might be relevant for other agencies involved in Reiha's care.
Although the investigating officer's supervisor had a conflict of interest, the Authority concluded that the supervisor was not actively involved in the investigation, the case was appropriately assigned and the outcome was not pre-determined.
However, the supervisor did make submissions to the Teachers Council regarding name suppression for Mr Back which were patently wrong and misleading. This was contrary to Police policy and amounted to misconduct at the serious end of the spectrum.
"If the supervisor had intended to mislead the Teachers Council, he would have been guilty of the offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice. However, such an intent cannot be proved", said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority also determined that:
CYF is now known as Oranga Tamariki.