28 Nov 2014

Glenn Inquiry releases final report

11:32 am on 28 November 2014

A radical proposal for a new Family Violence Court is a key recommendation in the final report of the independent Glenn Inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence.

Sir Owen Glenn, Bill Wilson QC and Dame Catherine Tizard (L-R) at the release of the People's Blueprint.

Sir Owen Glenn, Bill Wilson QC and Dame Catherine Tizard (L-R) at the release of the People's Blueprint. Photo: RNZ / Lauren Baker

The People's Blueprint, released today, is the culmination of a two-year inquiry kickstarted by expat businessman Sir Owen Glenn, who put $3 million of his own money into it.

The inquiry has been dogged by controversy, with 10 of its 25 members resigning last year after revelations Sir Owen himself had been accused of abusing a woman in Hawaii more than a decade ago - an allegation he has strongly denied.

Read the Glenn Inquiry's People's Blueprint report (PDF)

Sir Owen, who attended a press conference to launch the People's Blueprint at a hotel in Auckland at 8am today, said he had kept the promise he made when he set up the independent inquiry in 2012.

"I set up the Glenn Inquiry because it was clear to me that there is no more urgent issue facing our society than getting to grips with the national tragedy of child abuse and domestic violence", Sir Owen said.

"I was deeply concerned then - and I still am - that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of family violence in the developed world. If anything, the problem seems to be worsening."

He said New Zealand needed a culture shift and the inquiry's final report provided the basis of a strategy for doing that.

"Now that the inquiry's work is done, the challenge is laid down to implement it. I am anxious to see the strategy adopted by political parties, across the spectrum, and taken up over the whole of our society."

Bill Wilson, QC,chair of  the Glenn Inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence.

Bill Wilson QC has praised the report and challenged political leaders to implemenent its suggestions. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Glenn Inquiry chairman Bill Wilson QC said the report filled "a vacuum successive governments have struggled to fill".

He said the challenge was for all political leaders to embrace the potentially life-saving thinking in the plan, including a "one family, one judge" Family Violence Court, and a new agency to implement a long-term national family violence strategy.

Other recommendations include a waiver to the Privacy Act so personal information can be shared in the case of family violence allegations, and a centralised database to screen and manage high-risk cases.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the Government was already considering many of the suggestions for reform outlined by the Glenn Inquiry.

Ms Adams told Morning Report she recognised there were alignment problems between what was handled in the criminal court and what was handled in the Family Court.

"There are definitely issues that we've identified around the extent to which that information is shared, and you have a seamless handling of family issues," she said.

"So I think some of the issues they talk about are certainly valid. Whether their solutions is exactly the way we would calibrate it is something we'll work through."

Ms Adams said the Government could consider court reform but it would need close consultation with the judiciary.

'Comprehensive and courageous'

Glenn Inquiry patron Dame Catherine Tizard said the report was not about "trashing everything we've already tried and starting again with a blank slate".

"Instead, it provides a detailed outline of what an integrated programme designed to break the cycle of family violence could look like," she said.

"It reinforces our belief that a solution is achievable. It is a call to action."

Peter Boshier - the chairman of anti-violence organisation White Ribbon and a former principal Family Court judge - said it was a "comprehensive and courageous report".

He said, due to the huge volumes of work, the Family Court and the criminal justice system did not always work as "cohesively" as they should.

"What the Glenn Inquiry is wanting is a more customised, focused, concentrated process," he said.

"It feels that one judge, one family, one court is more likely to be a circuit-breaker than spreading it too thinly over over a number of judges and a number of courts."

160614. Photo Diego Opatowski / Radio NZ. Glenn Inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence. The People's Report. Dame Catherine Tizard, patron.

Dame Catherine Tizard said the report's intent was to outline a plan to "break the cycle of family violence". Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski


Barrister Catriona MacLennan, a long-standing critic of the Family Court system, said she would definitely support an overhaul of the current system, which too often minimised violence.

But she said the report over-emphasised the role of alcohol as a cause of family violence.

"If that was so, wouldn't drunk women be beating and killing their male partners?"

Ms MacLennan said the report did not appear to acknowledge or address the root cause of most family violence - "male attitudes towards women" - which was "disappointing".

"My view is we need significant funding to reduce family violence," she said.

"In particular, women and children need to be able to get permanently away from the abuser and not be forced to return because there are no beds in refuges or they can't afford accommodation or no accommodation is available through Housing New Zealand."

She welcomed the report's suggestions for free long-term counselling for survivors of family violence, for cross-party agreement, and for assigning the family violence portfolio to the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister.

'That's my story'

Another key proposal is for more peer-based programmes for violent offenders, which is something former hard-man Vic Tamati would support.

Mr Tamati, who travels the country telling his story as part of the "It's Not OK" campaign, grew up in a family where violence was normal.

He was finally forced to face up to his own violence after he beat his eight-year-old daughter with a platform shoe and sent her to school covered in bruises.

Mr Tamati said whether he was talking in small town community halls or inside prisons, the reaction was always the same. People tell him, "that's my story", he said.

He has recruited 20 reformed perpetrators to lead follow-up workshops and said more could be done with more resources.

In a written statement, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said there was major work underway to look at what was being spent on family violence and how effective that was.

She said officials would report back in February and decisions would then follow on where best to focus resources.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs