Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Review to impact future of $2m Glenn inquiry

Kirsten Rei was appointed chief executive during the Owen Glenn inquiry's restructuring. Photo / Richard Robinson
Kirsten Rei was appointed chief executive during the Owen Glenn inquiry's restructuring. Photo / Richard Robinson

An independent review by the Glenn Inquiry Board into how it handles sensitive information is likely to influence the future of the $2 million world-leading inquiry into family violence.

A "think-tank" of 38 international experts were last night due to decide whether to walk out in sympathy with the former director, Ruth Herbert, or stay within the inquiry's new "corporate" structure.

Ms Herbert quit the project last month citing concerns about its integrity. Three of the inquiry's four co-chairs plus operations director Jessica Trask, one think-tank member lawyer Catriona MacLennan and three part-time contractors also quit.

Media coverage of the project's troubles caused board chairman Bill Wilson, QC, to label any suggestions of confidentiality breaches as "completely unfounded".

"The comments made to media are defamatory and highly offensive. This appears to be a vendetta by disaffected former employees and contractors." An independent review will be conducted over the following weeks to assure the public information was handled securely and with integrity, he said.

The announcement teamed with the experts' international locations and technology difficulties meant the process was delayed last night, said think-tank spokesman Dr Neville Robertson, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Waikato.

He said only a few members had lodged their decisions, and he did not expect the full picture to emerge until later today.

"You're talking about a group of 38 people spread around the world who have busy lives and some of them will have responded, some of them might take longer," he said.

Of those he had seen, "a couple of people seemed to have suggested they would be staying in".

Members had been in communication throughout the weekend, but technology difficulties meant some - including Dr Robertson - were unable to read all the documents.

Discussions about the review and information handling were likely to have an impact, he said.

"I imagine they would be influencing people's decisions."

The inquiry was set up with high hopes it could tackle family violence in a way no government-funded inquiry could because of its complete independence from the state.

Its sole private backer, Sir Owen Glenn, put up the money as part of an $80 million pledge "to raise attention to New Zealand's family violence and child abuse statistics and his commitment to reverse them".

The expert think-tank was to hear evidence from survivors of family violence, frontline workers and professionals, backed by a think-tank of local and international experts.

On May 9, Ms Herbert and Ms Trask gave Sir Owen four weeks' notice of resignation. They expected this to lead to a negotiation that might have dealt with their concerns.

Instead Mr Wilson, a former Supreme Court judge, was appointed to chair a new governance board and Kirsten Rei appointed the new chief executive.

The new corporate structure upset the experts as it undermined the notion of a "people's inquiry".

- NZ Herald

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