1 Jul 2013

Chairman to investigate 'campaign' against inquiry

4:19 pm on 1 July 2013

The chair of the Glenn Inquiry into family violence says someone close to the inquiry appears to be running a campaign against it.

It has been revealed that an accusation of abuse was made against inquiry founder Sir Owen Glenn in 2002 in Hawaii. He entered a plea of no contest in court - meaning a defendant neither admits nor disputes a charge - and the case was then dismissed in 2004.

Sir Owen has issued a statement in which he says there is no truth to the allegation and he now regrets not fighting the case in court. However, he says legal advice at the time was to enter a no contest plea which resulted in the case being dismissed.

Inquiry chair Bill Wilson told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Monday he believes the revelation has come from someone close to the inquiry.

"In my view, it's clear that someone with some knowledge of the internal workings of the inquiry has been contacting the media about these matters. I'm not naming names at this stage, but it's a matter I'm going to investigate."

Mr Wilson says he's confident there's no truth to the abuse allegation and it hasn't permanently damaged the Glenn Inquiry which he says remains on track.

But the chair of the anti-violence White Ribbon committee and head of the Family Court says the abuse allegation has damaged its campaign. Judge Peter Boshier says Sir Owen should have disclosed the allegation when he became an ambassador for White Ribbon.

"I want the White Ribbon committee to meet very promptly to discuss this, because the issue's consuming an amount of media attention which is not helpful to the important message of the White Ribbon campaign itself."

Judge Boshier says the committee will give Sir Owen a fair hearing.

Inquiry patron again considering role

The patron of the Glenn Inquiry says she is again considering stepping down, but not because of the allegation against Sir Owen.

Dame Catherine Tizard says she reconsidered her role in early June after several people stepped down from the inquiry, as she was kept in the dark about the reasons for the resignations.

She says she felt the new chief executive deserved a chance, but in the intervening weeks has heard nothing except an email about the historical accusations.

Dame Catherine says it would be common courtesy to keep her informed about what is going on, and she plans to decide in the next few days whether she will continue as patron.

The chief executive of Women's Refuge, Heather Henare, who was appointed to review the inquiry amid claims that information given to it could be misused, says the allegation does not come into the review's brief. She says she will report any issues to the inquiry's board that she thinks might put it at risk.

Ms Henare says if the inquiry's work brings the issue of family violence to the attention of the Government and the UN, and New Zealand takes a serious look at its priorities, she believes that is a good thing.

Prime Minister John Key says the Government has done considerable research in the area, and what's needed now is not another inquiry, but work to fix the problem.