The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care has acknowledged a convicted paedophile was present at Survivor Advisory Group meetings alongside victims of child sexual abuse in New Zealand.
According to the Survivor Advisory Group Sponsoring Commissioner Paul Gibson, the sex offender was allowed into the closed meetings because he was the partner of one of the members.
Gibson said the commission has been aware of the man’s convictions since May, but the nature of those convictions were not disclosed until August 22nd and the commission “immediately took action”.
Since the information has been uncovered, two survivors – Michael Chamberlain and Steve Goodlass – have quit the Royal Commission Survivor Advisory Group. The survivors claim the commission blindsided and re-traumatised members of the group by allowing the convicted paedophile to attend the meetings.
This is not the first time the commission has been criticised for how it operates.
In the past, the commission appointed a high-profile gang member with a history of domestic violence, commissioners used survivors for trial interviews, commissioners downplayed “conflicts of interest” and Sir Anand Satyanand fell asleep while a survivor shared their stories.
Sir Anand has since stood down from his role. He was replaced by Chair Judge Coral Shaw.
However, Michael and Steve are now accusing Judge Shaw of spreading misinformation about the paedophile infiltration matter. Steve said Judge Shaw “deliberately downplayed” how many interactions the convicted paedophile had with the group.
The meetings were canceled after the fifth session when the presence of the paedophile came to light.
“The meetings that I was at were completely ineffectual. There were no questions ever put to us, they didn’t ask for advice. It’s absolutely vague, it was like they were making things up on the spot. So it was very, very frustrating.”
Steve also stated the group had minimal support from the commission to begin with.
He described the group as an “expensive box-ticking exercise”. The commission flew in members from all over the country.
Both Steve and Michael were also members of the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions. The network supports the idea of having a commissioner in place, but have expressed deep reservations about Judge Shaw.
New Zealand’s Royal Commission has to nurture trust with survivor groups. It’s starting to look more and more like the United Kingdom’s child sex abuse commission, where distrust in the Chair resulted in several resignations.
Allowing a convicted paedophile to attend survivor meetings just because he was the partner of a member is not acceptable. Under no circumstances should a child sex abuse survivor be exposed to a criminal of this calibre.
It is damaging. It is re-traumatising, and it isn’t good enough.
At Kelso Lawyers, we support survivors of child abuse to achieve compensation and justice. We know the difference between right and wrong, and we’ll help you fight for it.
If you believe you’re a victim of institutional sexual abuse in Australia or New Zealand, get in touch via the form below. We’re here to help.