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
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".
* 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
* 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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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: https://glenninquiry.org.nz/
- Simon Collins of the NZ Herald