Millionaire businessman Sir Owen Glenn's inquiry into domestic violence and child abuse is under further pressure with revelations he was accused of physically abusing a young woman in Hawaii in 2002.
Court documents seen by Fairfax Media show Glenn offered a plea of no contest when the case came before the courts in Hawaii in 2003. That plea means the charge was not contested or admitted. Glenn was put on probation, and the charge was dismissed in 2004 when the probationary period ended.
Court documents show Glenn was arrested in a Honolulu hotel in the early hours of September 10, 2002, and was charged with "abuse of family or household members".
A police charge sheet records he was accused of "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly physically abuse [sic]" the woman.
Fairfax Media has chosen not to name the woman. She could not be contacted for comment.
Glenn yesterday said in a statement that there was no truth to the allegation.
"My regret now is that I didn't take the matter to court, however after two years of dispute in the American court system and at the strong advice of my American lawyer I resolved the case in Hawaii to avoid further horrendous court costs, and to bring the matter to an end on an agreed basis which resulted in an order of dismissal.
"It saddens me that yet again it appears the New Zealand media is delving into my personal life to fill their pages while New Zealand is ranked the third highest country in the world for rape and this issue goes virtually unreported."
Glenn, who part-owns the Warriors rugby league team with Eric Watson, has been a generous benefactor. His wealth is estimated at $900 million, and in recent years he has made multimillion-dollar donations to causes including the Christchurch Earthquake fund, the Auckland University Business School and the national aquatic centre.
The revelation puts further pressure upon his troubled high-profile inquiry into domestic violence and child abuse, which at least 10 staff and advisers have walked away from. Glenn did not inform inquiry staff of the allegation, and did not tell the government-backed White Ribbon anti-violence campaign, for which he has applied to become an ambassador.
He yesterday defended his decision not to tell either organisation, saying he had no history of violence towards women.
"Within the past 12 months I have signed two declarations, which I stand by, that state I am living violence-free and that I have no history of violence towards women or children. These declarations are accurate in all respects."
In a statement to Fairfax today, Glenn Inquiry chairman Bill Wilson, said:
"The most important aspect to this is that the two declarations which Sir Owen signed state that he is living violence-free and that he has no history of violence towards women or children.
"He has confirmed that these declarations are accurate in all respects. I can give an assurance that as chair of the inquiry I am aware of the situation and have no concerns.
"Sir Owen resolved the situation based on advice from his American lawyer which seemed the right approach at the time.
"The importance of the inquiry is paramount and is where we would rather be channelling our energies,'' Wilson's statement concluded.
Former Glenn Inquiry director Ruth Herbert, who resigned in May, said Glenn had signed a form declaring he had no history which could embarrass the inquiry.
Herbert and the inquiry's former operations director Jessica Trask, who also resigned in May, said: "We are lost for words. Our immediate reaction is that it is the ultimate betrayal of the trust we put in him."
At least one other resignation is possible as a result of the revelations. Waikato University professor Neville Robertson, a member of the inquiry's Think Tank panel, said: "Holy shit. That's news to me. That's really problematic. I would certainly be reconsidering my position."
It could also embarrass the White Ribbon programme. In his application to become an ambassador, Glenn had to sign a statement that "nothing in my past or current personal life would damage the credibility of the campaign".
White Ribbon campaign manager Rob McCann confirmed Glenn was being considered as an ambassador, but said he was "certainly not aware of" the Hawaiian charge.
Speaking today, Mr McCann said the White Ribbon committee had been informed of Mr Glenn's no-contest charge and it would be considered in his application to become an ambassador for the campaign, as would be done with any nominee. The committee was scheduled to meet again in the next few weeks.
Last night White Ribbon chair Judge Peter Boshier said the committee would consider the information.
Glenn was represented by high-profile Hawaiian defence attorney Michael Jay Green, who said Glenn had always categorically denied the allegation, but had agreed a no contest plea because he had left Hawaii and had no desire to return. Green said prominent people often agreed no contest charges because it meant no judgment was made against them that could be used by complainants to sue in a civil case.
The police booking sheet says the offence happened at the luxury Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel on Kalakaua Ave in Honolulu and Glenn was arrested at 1.09am on September 10, 2002.
Glenn entered a plea of no contest, which means he neither denied nor admitted the charge, and after a six-month period of probation, the charge was dismissed in August 2004, backdated to April of that year.
Glenn spent some of that intervening period in New Zealand, where he entertained during the America's Cup regatta on his yacht Ubiquitous.
An experienced Hawaiian lawyer, Guy Sibilla, said the no contest charge was "an unusual criminal process that is generally open to defendants without prior criminal records".
Glenn launched his inquiry last year, saying he would spend $8m on producing a blueprint designed to solve the issues of domestic violence and child abuse and wanted to present his findings to the United Nations.
Yesterday Glenn said: "My motivation behind the Glenn Inquiry is our appalling statistics, particularly that we have the fifth-worst child abuse rates in the OECD. What a shame media don't put this time and energy into encouraging the public to adopt zero tolerance towards this behaviour in our country."
- Sunday Star Times