Glenn Inquiry: 'Shift burden of proof'

Sir Owen Glenn
Sir Owen Glenn
Sir Owen Glenn's independent inquiry into family violence suggests shifting the burden of proof in "domestic" cases so that alleged perpetrators are considered guilty unless they can prove they are innocent.

The first report from the $2 million inquiry, issued today, has found "overwhelming agreement" among the 500 people who gave evidence that New Zealand's current court system is "dysfunctional and broken".

"The court system structure and processes, and the people working within it, revictimise and retraumatise victims," it says.

The first report, called "The People's Report", does not make specific recommendations, which are expected in a final report by the end of this year.

But it offers "ideas for change" from those who gave evidence, including "a major review of the court system". Ideas include:

* Revisit the burden of proof so that it lies with perpetrators not victims.

* Review the adversarial system which "places an excessive burden of proof on victims", replacing it with "a more collaborative system where the burden of proof is on the perpetrator".

* End the court's "gender bias" which "fosters institutional abuse and revictimisation of victims, while perpetrators were often not held accountable for their behaviour".

* Provide advocates and non-means-tested legal aid to all victims of child abuse and domestic violence.

* Revise criteria for lawyers to act as lawyers for children, because "most were incompetent and often acted in ways that were not in children's best interests".

* Educate lawyers, judges and court staff about domestic violence and child abuse, "particularly the psychological coercion and control used by perpetrators to manipulate people (including court staff) and proceedings".

"While the Glenn inquiry heard that some judges, lawyers and psychologists were exemplary, by far the majority were reported to be at times unprofessional and their actions or inactions contributing to unsafe or dangerous situations," the report says.

Elsewhere, it says: "An overwhelming number of people told how their domestic violence was treated as a 'game' by lawyers, who unnecessarily lengthened proceedings for what appeared to be their own benefit."

The inquiry, set up by Sir Owen two years ago in a package of philanthropic initiatives to tackle some of New Zealand's worst social problems, has been dogged by controversy. Inaugural director Ruth Herbert resigned last year over concerns that the inquiry was not being careful enough to protect people giving evidence.

Most of a 38-strong international think-tank that she had assembled also quit after reports that Sir Owen had pleaded "no contest" to a charge of assaulting a woman in Hawaii in 2002.

Sir Owen has also been in a court battle since 2012 with the US-based trustees of a trust he set up with the proceeds of the sale of his global logistics business, which has forced him to stop funding most of his other philanthropic projects in Otara.

However, new inquiry chief executive Kirsten Rei fended off resignation threats from its patron Dame Catherine Tizard, who spoke at the People's Report launch in Wellington today. Women's Refuge chief executive Heather Henare agreed to join the inquiry board, and respected Maori academics Dr Denise Wilson from AUT University and Dr Melinda Webber from Auckland University's Starpath project agreed to write the report.

Although there have been many other reports on family violence, the People's Report is unusual in bringing all aspects of the problem together into a single document, written largely in the words of the 113 frontline workers and almost 400 survivors and perpetrators of abuse who gave evidence.

It acknowledges that many perpetrators are victims too: "While tane [men] may be perpetrators today, they have their own stories of being victims of child abuse, neglect and domestic violence

"It is most often the trauma, not some medical condition or inherent fault with a particular person, that is the source of child abuse and domestic violence and any accompanying drug and alcohol problem," the report says.

"The response should not be about pathologising people, but rather addressing their trauma so that people are able to understand it, can develop new ways of functioning and coping with it, in order to heal."

It suggests intervening early and "holistically" in families affected by abuse, focusing on "the needs of the whole family and the ongoing needs of perpetrators, rather than individuals only".

"By helping young people find jobs and appropriate accommodation, by helping parents back into work, by establishing stable routines for children at school and by reducing the barriers to living in violence-free contexts, individuals and families can lead productive lives," it says.

It also suggests removing the current limits on free long-term counselling for both victims and perpetrators, and educating children, parents and the general public about respectful communication and caring relationships.

The report is online at:

- Simon Collins of the NZ Herald

Back to the drawing board Mr Glenn

This is completely crazy:

"Review the adversarial system which "places an excessive burden of proof on victims", replacing it with "a more collaborative system where the burden of proof is on the perpetrator".

The idea that fathers - because this whole exercise seems be to persecute men - will have to prove their innocence is fatally flawed: how possible is it to 'prove' that you didn't do something when there are no other witnesses?

The purpose of any kind of Court is to establish the veracity of an allegation - just because a serious allegation is made about a father doesn't mean it's a fact, or that he is a 'perpetrator'. That is for the Court to decide - nobody should be treated as guilty before being properly tried.

It's already too easy for unscrupulous ex-partners to make serious allegations in the Family Court in order to gain leverage in custody disputes, or simply revenge.



But we like violence, don't we?

The Glenn Inquiry is pushing it uphill if enthusiasm for the latest example of violence is anything to go by: " target="_blank">>>Link<<


Will there now be a call for an increase in police brutality, more domestic violence when he/she was "asking for it"?  NZers are mighty keen on people getting beaten up for trivial offences.  


Personally I'd like to see NZers take pride in their ability to control impulses instead of acting on every "thought" if you can call it that, that goes through their heads.  Not bashing people would be great.  Not stealing and not cheating even if it's easy, would be good too.  Not drinking so much that they lost control would be wonderful.  


NZers could have a higher standard of living if some people didn't live in fear of others, didn't need hospital care as the result of others' brutality, and fewer people were expensively housed in prisons as a result of their harmful actions.  But it looks like this would be regarded as an unpopular threat to "our culture" of the bash.


Nothing sick about NZ society, no-sirree! 

Welfare dependency should be focus

Welfare depenency is the biggest factor in domestic violence (>>Link<<) so this should be the focus of attention rather than changing our legal system to be more medieval where people are guilty until proven innocent. Many things can be done to reduce welfare dependency such as focusing on getting long term unemployed back to work and also introducing a welfare credit card scheme where people can only spend welfare money on necessities. This encourages people to get off welfare if they want to buy luxuries like holidays or a new car. It also helps people who really do need welfare as they will spend less on non necessities like alcohol and cigarettes and gambling.

A big danger with a change to our legal system would be that it could make it harder for victims to be taken seriously since anyone with an axe to grind can make an accusation and the accused have to prove they are innocent. This could encourage spurious accusations and make it less likely authorities will take a real victim seriously.

Evil men

Many fathers have spent years battling with the courts to have their rights recognised. It's not that long ago that all a woman had to do was go to court and that's it - no access for the father. Under these suggested changes a father would have no rights to their children. All it would take is the mother to make up a story and then the father is guilty.


Coming from a family of self-rejecting homicidal schizophrenics I can really relate to all that. However, the idea of 'holistic' approaches to healing past traumas is entirely meaningless without specific content.

In my case, for example, the only thing that resolved the terrible traumas of the past was encountering Jesus Christ at a church. Now 35 years later I have raised 3 great kids, been happily married for 25 years and have a high-pressure job that entails considerable responsibility and direct client contact.

IE, the specifics of the effective help are not what feministic, evolutionary sociologists want to hear, so my voice is not listened to. When are the rich and poweful going to stop telling us ordinary folk how to solve our problems? Why doesn't Glenn ring up Bill Subritsky and ask how he helps so many people?

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