4 Aug 2021

Gloriavale man pleads guilty to indecently assaulting teens

3:53 pm on 4 August 2021

A former Gloriavale man has pleaded guilty to a raft of sexual offending stemming from his time in the reclusive West Coast religious community.

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Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

In the Greymouth District Court today he entered guilty pleas to eight charges of indecently assaulting girls, two of indecent assaulting a boy, and one count of sexual violation.

Three of the charges related to victims under the age of 12.

The man appeared in the court via audio-visual from the Christchurch District Court.

He also denied 10 charges of indecent assault, 12 of sexual violation and five counts of rape.

The man elected trial by jury on those charges.

The charges covered a period between 1986 and 2012.

Judge Murray Hunt remanded the man in custody until his next court appearance in October.

The man retained interim name suppression to protect his fair trial rights.

Gloriavale Leavers Support Trust manager Liz Gregory said today's admission of guilt would bring some relief to victims.

"This is a really sad day for people living in Gloriavale, for those who have lived in there and for many family members," she said, outside court.

"There are a lot of victims and a huge amount of charges ... this is tragic.

"It's good there have been some guilty pleas entered because honesty and accountability is what is needed. People can't carry on and begin a healing journey until there's been acknowledgement of things that've happened that are wrong and the pain they've experienced. To move forward and have some attempt at reconciliation and healing is so vital for victims.

"We stand in support of all those victims who came forward and those who maybe even did it against what they have believed is necessarily the right thing for them to do. It's an incredibly powerful thing ... to expose your soul.

"But this needs to stop happening and the reality is somewhere along the line the leaders are going to have to be held accountable for creating and maintaining an environment where abuse has flourished and run unchecked and there's been silencing of victims."

About 50 people had left the community recently, she said.

They needed the support of New Zealand, as did those who remained living in the community.

Gloriavale's founder Neville Cooper - who was known to those in the community as Hopeful Christian and died in 2018 - himself spent time in prison for sexual offending in the community.