1 Apr 2021

Sir Ron Brierley pleads guilty to possessing child sexual abuse material

10:14 pm on 1 April 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has started moves to strip disgraced New Zealand-born businessman Sir Ron Brierley of his knighthood.

Sir Ron Brierley.

Sir Ron Brierley. Photo: Getty Images

Brierley pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing child sex abuse material in the Downing Centre Local Court with 14 charges withdrawn.

Brierley's barrister admitted he possessed "some images" but the exact figure is "in dispute".

A spokesperson for the prime minister said Ardern had asked for the forfeiture process to be initiated.

Brierley will have 30 days to respond, but after that the prime minister can write to the Queen asking her to cancel his appointment to the Order and he will be asked to return his insignia.

A long-time campaigner against child exploitation said Brierley should do the decent thing and give up his knighthood himself.

Stop Demand founder and barrister Denise Ritchie told Checkpoint under the public opinion, it would be considered wrong for him to hold a royal honour under these circumstances.

"There was always the alternative for the prime minister's office to not take any steps until later in the month when he is sentenced, so we wanted to pre-empt that [with a statement].

"Given his guilty plea, we thought the process should be relatively straightforward and there was no reason for the process [of removing his knighthood] not to begin immediately, so well done to the PM, it was a decisive step forward."

Criteria for removal of honours includes (but is not limited to) situations where the holder is sentenced to more than three months in prison, and:

  • the offence involved disloyalty to the state; or
  • the offence was committed by a civil servant and involved serious dereliction of duty; or
  • the offence involved other disgraceful conduct such that public opinion would consider it wrong for the offender to hold a royal honour (bringing the honours system into disrepute).

Ritchie said it was "a massive fall from grace" for the businessman.

"You've got to keep in mind, [for] every one of these images, there's a victim and these are horrific crimes.

"This a particularly heinous crime that often people don't really appreciate that the full understanding of what happened only gets clearer as the victims become older, and then they realise with horror that their [perpetrators'] crime has never, or will never ever stop until the day they die.

"It says something about people in position who believe they're invincible or untouchable. There's got to be an element of brazenness to have gone through the Sydney customs just armed with so much material."

And Cricket Wellington said Sir Ron Brierley's life membership will be reviewed following his guilty plea.

He is a former Patron of Cricket Wellington and a current Life Member.

Cricket Wellington said it has not received donations from Sir Ron Brierley since October 2017.

The New Zealand businessman was arrested in December 2019 on six counts of possession of child abuse material.

Border officials had found child sexual abuse material on his laptop and electronic storage devices.

Brierley will next appear in court on 30 April.

He was one of the best known New Zealanders of the 1980s and 1990s - never far from the headlines or a new business buy-up.

Brierley became both feared and revered in business circles for his shrewd ability to spot companies with untapped value, which he would then take over and turn around for vast profits.

The "corporate raider" - as he's usually referred to - founded Brierley Investments, which was one of New Zealand's largest most successful and glamorous companies of the 1980s.

He was an expert at what admirers called "corporate rationalisation" - the ability to spot when to buy a company and reform it to extract more value.

The NBR's 2019 Rich List estimates Brierley's net worth is about $220 million, putting him at number 82 on the list of the wealthiest New Zealanders.

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