Conflicting interests?

17:00, Aug 28 2010
potterland
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Professor Felicity Goodyear-Smith is a senior academic and doctor who was commissioned by ACC to research sexual abuse counselling. She is also the daughter-in-law of Centrepoint guru and paedophile Bert Potter, is married to a convicted sex offender and has controversial views on the workings of the 'sexual abuse industry'. Tim Hume examines allegations of Goodyear-Smith's influence in ACC's recent drastic cut in support for victims of sex crimes.

LAST OCTOBER, ACC changed the rules governing the support available to victims of sex crimes, introducing a heavily criticised new regime that severely restricted access to counselling.

But what most concerned critics was an apparent similarity between a requirement in the new "clinical pathway", and a recommendation contained in research ACC had commissioned from a controversial senior academic. The research was led by Professor Felicity Goodyear-Smith, who has been a vocal detractor of the field of sexual abuse counselling and who, as the daughter-in-law of Centrepoint founder Bert Potter, has ongoing personal relationships with convicted child sex offenders.

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Felicity Goodyear-Smith is married to Bert Potter's son John, above, who was jailed for four months for indecent assault on an underage girl.

During the eight months following the clinical pathway's introduction, ACC paid out $7 million less to 2889 fewer claimants than it had over the same period a year previous. Approved new claims, running at 1313 in the eight months prior to the pathway's introduction, subsequently dropped to 240 over the same length of time. Among the hundreds to have their claims denied were two women believed to have later committed suicide.

Despite a record $4.8 billion loss sustained by ACC the previous financial year, ACC Minister Nick Smith stressed the policy was not an attempt to cut costs, but was driven by a desire to implement best practice for sexual abuse victims, known as "sensitive claimants". Critics dubbed the new pathway a "rapists' charter".

The scheme's many detractors were primarily concerned by a new requirement that, before they could access ACC counselling and support, claimants had to be diagnosed formally with a mental injury as defined by the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV). Whereas previously, ACC might have accepted a GP or counsellor's description of symptoms such as flashbacks, panic attacks or nightmares resulting from a sex crime, now a formal diagnosis of a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder was needed.

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Bert Potter

It's unclear exactly why. Nowhere was a DSM-IV mental illness diagnosis specified in the so-called "Massey guidelines", the widely accepted 2008 best practice manual which ACC had commissioned from Massey University researchers, and which it cited as having guided the formulation of the pathway.

The requirement was problematic at both a practical and an ideological level. Generally, only psychiatrists and clinical psychologists are qualified to make a DSM-IV diagnosis, so those who provided the bulk of sensitive claims support – counsellors and psychotherapists – were typically no longer able to satisfy the requirements. The latter professions considered the pathway unethical for the way it retraumatised victims, requiring them to recount their abuse to external assessors, all the while enduring the stress of knowing their future treatment hung on this scrutiny. Moreover, they strongly objected to being forced to label victims of sexual assaults with a stigmatising diagnosis of mental illness, for displaying symptoms they regard as a normal response to traumatic events.

"It's a fundamental shift," says Auckland counsellor Barri Leslie, "because it takes away all the responsibility from the perpetrators and puts all the consequences on to the victims."

ACC now admits it got it wrong and earlier this month announced that sexual assault victims are now automatically entitled to 16 sessions of counselling. "We moved too quick, and left a bunch of people with nowhere to go," says ACC spokesman Laurie Edwards.

Those who need additional treatment must still undergo a DSM-IV mental injury assessment for further cover, though. This worries Leslie and others, like Kyle MacDonald, sensitive claims spokesman for the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists. More pressingly, they share concerns about the potential influence in the pathway of a piece of research, published in 2005, that ACC commissioned from Goodyear-Smith and two colleagues on the corporation's provision of sexual abuse counselling.

GOODYEAR-SMITH IS the Goodfellow Postgraduate Chair at Auckland University's Medical and Health Sciences Faculty. She is also the daughter-in-law of Bert Potter, the free-love guru and unabashed paedophile who founded the Centrepoint commune in 1977. Goodyear-Smith served as the community's GP from 1989, living for several years on Centrepoint land with her husband, Potter's son John, himself a convicted sex offender. John Potter was jailed for four months in 1993 after pleading guilty to two historic charges of indecent assault on an underage girl.

Generations of girls and boys grew up subject to systematic sexual abuse by Potter and his acolytes in their "therapeutic community" on Auckland's North Shore, where sexual contact between adults and children was permitted, even encouraged. Massey University research, based on interviews with 29 of the estimated 200-300 children who lived at Centrepoint, found a third had been sexually abused there. Many have struggled with post-traumatic symptoms, depression, self-destructive behaviour and other problems into their adult lives.

In the wake of the child sex abuse scandal, which broke in 1991, Goodyear-Smith has remained loyal to her father-in-law and his followers, regarding the charges with scepticism and using the case as the basis for her 1993 book First Do No Harm. The book addressed the phenomenon of "false memory syndrome", and argued that what had begun as a well-intentioned movement to help women and children, had been perverted into a damaging, hysterical "sexual abuse industry".

Regarding the Centrepoint abuse, she agrees the complainants' "early sexualisation and parental encouragement to be sexually active was inappropriate", but saves most of her scorn for the "subsequent counselling and legal intervention... [which] may have contributed to their seeing themselves as permanently harmed from their childhood sexual experimentation".

Regarding sexual abuse in general, she wrote on her website that research indicated "a significant number of children who are sexually abused do not suffer any psychological consequences".

Leslie, a founding member of Centrepoint who clashed with the GP at the time of the sexual abuse scandal, alleges Goodyear-Smith provides "an academic veneer for [a number of] attitudes remarkably similar" to Bert Potter's. "It's outrageous she's been commissioned to do research by ACC in the area of sexual abuse counselling."

To this day, Goodyear-Smith maintains contact with Bert Potter and members of his inner sanctum associated with the abuse scandal. Susanne Brighouse, who was jointly charged with former husband Dave Mendelssohn of sexual offending, lives at the same Albany address as Goodyear-Smith and her husband and is also sporadically hired on a casual basis as her research assistant at Auckland University. Although the sex charges against Brighouse were withdrawn, she was jailed for perjury over the affair (Mendelssohn was jailed for three years for his sexual assaults on the children, one of whom was three years old).

Says a senior police officer involved in the Centrepoint investigation: "We always regarded Goodyear-Smith as an apologist for paedophiles." (Goodyear-Smith was charged with perjury in 1992; she writes that she was acquitted.)

Goodyear-Smith has since carved out a successful university career, while acting as a powerfully credentialled advocate in academia, the courts and the media for men accused of sexual abuse. In 1994, she founded the now-defunct Casualties of Sexual Allegations to support men in the face of "the increasing number of false allegations of sexual abuse being made in New Zealand", according to its website. It provided, among other things, information kits for men charged with allegations of sexual abuse, still available on her husband's "masculinist" website, menz.org.nz.

Last year, Goodyear-Smith made legal threats that effectively muzzled Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care (DSAC), an organisation of practitioners who treat victims of sexual assault. It had been vocally critical of her work, particularly a 2007 paper which argued that gonorrhoea in pre-pubescent children was not necessarily an indicator of sexual abuse. The article was rebutted in print by the director of Auckland District Health Board's child abuse unit, Dr Patrick Kelly, and Dr Janet Say, a senior sexual health specialist with nearly 30 years' experience. The following year, the Supreme Court dismissed the authority of the research as "very questionable" when a man who had raped and infected his three-year-old daughter with gonorrhoea attempted to appeal his conviction on the basis of the paper.

That same year, she also acted as medical adviser to the defence of Christchurch man George Gwaze, charged with the murder and sexual violation of his 10-year-old niece Charlene Makaza. After Gwaze's acquittal, Goodyear-Smith told this newspaper that once the possibility of sexual abuse had been raised, incorrectly, other potential explanations were never considered. In a historic decision earlier this year, the Supreme Court overturned the jury's not-guilty verdict and ordered a retrial.

ACC HAS commissioned 14 pieces of research from Goodyear-Smith, but it is the 2005 paper on sexual abuse counselling, co-authored with a Child, Youth and Family analyst and an Auckland University psychology lecturer, which has been the subject of concern. Goodyear-Smith has repeatedly made her views on the efficacy of sexual abuse counselling and the motivations of its practitioners clear.

In her book, she writes that sexual abuse counselling was often provided by former abuse victims, who were heavily biased if not "permanently psychologically damaged" by their own traumatic experiences. A COSA newsletter reasoned that, because research had shown sexual abuse often had no "psychological consequences" on the victim, it was important that treatment was targeted at "specific problems if and when they occur, rather than providing `sexual abuse counselling' for everyone who has had the misfortune to have such an experience in childhood".

In a 1997 interview with the Dominion, Goodyear-Smith said: "Counsellors are making good money. The ACC scam's one of the biggest there is. Counselling costs this country millions of dollars a year, and I have evidence to show that some of it is making people worse."

Eight years later she was publishing ACC-commissioned research attempting to determine whether counsellors, or higher-qualified professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists, were more effective at providing treatment to sexual abuse victims. Her paper examined ACC's records of the 8676 sensitive claimants using counselling services during 2003 to compare the number of visits they made to their respective providers. It was inconclusive.

Despite being unable to draw conclusions on which profession was more effective, the research made the recommendation, apparently unsupported by the data it assessed, that an initial assessment of a mental injury according to a DSM-IV diagnosis should be made by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist at the outset of treatment – the very requirement that caused such consternation when it subsequently appeared in ACC's clinical pathway.

"There are parallels between the pathway and the 2005 research, and they're obvious ones," MacDonald said. "The strong emphasis for a diagnosis of a mental disorder caused by sexual assault, and the need for that to be carried out at the beginning of treatment by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, is a demand that's not stated in that way anywhere in the Massey guidelines."

He and Leslie see a troubling correlation between the GP's scepticism toward the harm caused by sexual abuse, and the higher burden of proof of mental injury according to the DSM-IV required under the new clinical pathway.

Like others in the sexual abuse care sector, they fear that Goodyear-Smith's research has fed into the pool of information that guides decision-making around sensitive claims policy, influencing the creation of higher hurdles for victims, and a more disbelieving regime around claims of sexual abuse in general.

ACC denies any link. Asked by the Sunday Star-Times last October about the relation of Goodyear-Smith's research to the newly unveiled clinical pathway, ACC responded in an email that it had not commissioned her 2005 research, and eventually refused to answer further questions. This was untrue. ACC spokesman Laurie Edwards said this month that the public relations staffer responsible had made a mistake, but could not account why.

Earlier this month, after communications staff were directed to evidence that it had commissioned the paper, claims management general manager Denise Cosgrove admitted the corporation had funded the research, but maintained it had played no part in the development of the pathway.

Edwards stressed that Goodyear-Smith's research focused on treatment, rather than assessment of sensitive claims, although the controversial recommendation of a DSM-IV mental injury diagnosis related to assessment.

But the pathway's requirement for a DSM-IV mental injury diagnosis prior to treatment could not be directly attributed to Goodyear-Smith's recommendation, he said. "This is the line I said you can't draw."

The fact that it appeared in both Goodyear-Smith's paper and the clinical pathway, despite not being found in the Massey guidelines, reflected the fact it was "best practice", although on what authority this was claimed he was unable to clarify.

An ACC-commissioned 2003 review of the sensitive claims process said the corporation had adopted the DSM-IV as a diagnostic tool to establish – as it was required to under the 2001 Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act – whether a mental injury had occured as a result of a sex crime. But there is nothing in the act that specifically mandates the DSM-IV as the necessary diagnostic tool.

"The DSM-IV is there almost by default because no one can show us a better way to do it," said Edwards. He described the requirement for a DSM-IV mental injury diagnosis as having been in place for years, just never enforced.

Regardless of whether the introduction of a DSM-IV mental injury diagnosis as a hurdle to treatment was influenced by Goodyear-Smith's research, many involved in sexual abuse care are concerned at ACC commissioning research in such a sensitive area from an academic with an ideological standpoint potentially coloured by a deep personal investment in the issue.

"My concerns are this is somebody who has been and continues to be in some tricky conflicted positions professionally," says MacDonald. "It's fairly difficult to have credibility as an expert on sexual abuse and trauma if you also appear as an expert witness for the defence in court trials of paedophiles. I think it's naive to suggest she can have it both ways."

Goodyear-Smith declined to be interviewed for this story.

SOME OF the rancour between Goodyear-Smith and DSAC can be traced to the fact that, as she wrote in First Do No Harm, she is viewed as something of "a traitor to the cause". She was initially a local pioneer in the sexual assault field, setting up services for rape victims in the early 1980s when the issue of sexual violence was first being seriously addressed. As a police doctor, she acted for the Crown in sexual abuse cases, helped establish the country's first sexual assault clinic, wrote an examination guide and carried out forensic examinations of children at Starship hospital's predecessor. For this, among other work, she was made an honorary life member of DSAC when the organisation formed in 1988. Nine years later, the organisation changed its constitution to rescind her life membership.

According to her book, Goodyear-Smith met John Potter through mutual friends in 1986, a year after he had left Centrepoint and started living away from the community. Goodyear-Smith writes that at this time she was "burnt out" by her work in the sexual abuse field. A year later she resigned from the sexual assault roster, sold her practice, and travelled overseas. On their return in early 1988, they moved into a housetruck situated on Centrepoint land in Albany on Auckland's North Shore, on a hill above the community's main complex, where she worked on sexual abuse research. A year later, she became the community's GP.

An article Goodyear-Smith wrote for Centrepoint's magazine in 1990 paints a picture of a GP whose involvement with the community she served went far beyond the regular rules of engagement. "Centrepoint is where I spend much of my non-doctoring time, and where so many of my social contacts, friends and family live," she writes.

Goodyear-Smith has been at odds to distance herself from the commune retrospectively, telling a newspaper in January that she never lived at Centrepoint but visited often, and writing in her book that she and her husband "lived as an autonomous family, quite separate from the community down the hill".

What isn't mentioned is that their housetruck was parked next to Bert Potter's house, close enough for them to draw electricity, and they regularly used his laundry and bathroom facilities. Potter Sr had at this time removed himself from Centrepoint's main communal dwellings, having fallen out with members of his flock over his mismanagement of pooled funds lost in the stockmarket crash the year before.

DURING THE period that Goodyear-Smith lived on the community's land and served as its GP, Centrepoint was awash in hard drugs.

Bert Potter had set up a significant drug operation, producing and selling LSD, MDMA and ketamine, and operating what investigating officers now describe as the country's first-known methamphetamine lab. As well as proving a lucrative source of revenue, the drugs were a catalyst to psychic exploration and sexual experimentation within the community, including with children.

Centrepoint members would regularly go to Potter's house to take Ecstasy and LSD; ketamine was routinely injected in the second bedroom. Potter would dispatch busloads of Centrepoint members to gather ergot, a fungus which grows on ryegrass and is used in the production of LSD. A drug raid in September 1989 eventually netted 493 LSD tabs, 102 Ecstasy tablets, ketamine and syringes in a cupboard in Potter's kitchen, and he was subsequently jailed.

"Any responsible adult who was there would have had to have been deaf, blind and dumb not to know what was going on in that community," says Superintendent Ray van Beynen, who at the time headed the Centrepoint drug inquiry.

Around the same time, with Potter's hold over the community on the wane, a group of former Centrepoint girls, now grown up and living outside the community, began to organise to take action against their abusers. Goodyear-Smith writes she attempted to arrange meetings to facilitate a healing dialogue, but her attempts "were met with hostility". Leslie says this was because of the perception among the girls that Goodyear-Smith's loyalties lay with her father-in-law. At one meeting the GP had organised for the community's mothers and daughters, the girls said everything was fine.

Leslie recalls the moment she first felt Goodyear-Smith may have had an agenda was in 1990, when, in the face of the impending scandal, Potter had asked his daughter-in-law to marshal medical evidence that what the complainants had experienced was not harmful. Leslie recalls sitting in Goodyear-Smith's housetruck, poring over the medical research. It appeared to Leslie that "she would flick past anything that showed any kind of analysis of difficulties for children. I felt she was only looking for things to justify Bert's position."

A COMPARISON OF Goodyear-Smith's First Do No Harm (1993) and Potter's Living and Loving (1994) reveals strong parallels in their attitudes towards the community's sex abuse scandal, and issues of sexual abuse and counselling (see sidebar on Focus, C2).

Goodyear-Smith criticises the counsellors who had access to the complainants, implying their ideological slant meant the "potential damage from adult-child sexual contact was emphasised, no matter if [the complainants] thought they were fully consenting and enjoyed it at the time". To Leslie, Goodyear-Smith's writing does the opposite, significantly downplaying the potential damage of those encounters.

Although Goodyear-Smith writes that "it was unhealthy and inappropriate for young people to explore their sexuality in this way", like Potter, she generally characterises the child-adult sexual activity at Centrepoint as consensual exploration initiated by the child. This is reflected in some of the accounts presented in "A Different Kind of Family", the Massey University research based on interviews with former Centrepoint children. Some insisted their childhood sexual experiences had been healthy, and echoed Potter's views that Centrepoint had been "a wonderful place to grow up". "[I]nitiation of sexual contact with children by adults was never condoned," Goodyear-Smith wrote in her book.

But the characterisation of the child-adult sexual contact at Centrepoint as consensual and child-initiated misrepresents what many former residents now say took place. About a third of those interviewed by the Massey researchers said they were sexually abused. Some spoke "of men who came regularly into the babies' nappy changing area to play sexually with the infants". One interviewee recalled Potter Sr saying it was acceptable to sexualise children as long as they didn't say no, and demonstrating a technique to stimulate a child.

Some former residents disclosed that their parents had sexually abused children prior to moving to the community. Researcher Dr Kerry Gibson said, "It sounds like it became known as a place where you might have access to children."

Says the father of one of Potter's victims: "There were serious hardcore paedophiles there, guys who sought out sex with children." The man's daughter was first abused by Potter aged two, and it continued for seven years. He says he finds it hard to understand how Goodyear-Smith emerged from the Centrepoint experience with a conviction that false sexual abuse allegations abound, when the abuse that took place in the Albany commune was real, entrenched, and persisted for years.

TODAY, POTTER lives in a ramshackle $18-a-week pensioner's flat north of Auckland amidst a paedophile's solitude, a portrait of himself on the wall smiling beatifically. The 85-year-old has the long, matted white beard of a swami. He does not resile from anything he brought about with Centrepoint, telling the Star-Times in May that the former child residents who claimed abuse were only imagining their trauma. "A lot of things that [the former residents] are quoting as damaging are because they've been told that they're damaging." He would love to get the community up and running again.

But following Centrepoint's acrimonious disintegration, he has little contact with anyone from the community, save for his son and Goodyear-Smith. He regards his daughter-in-law as "probably the one researcher in NZ who is capable of doing sexual research". His only other contact is regular phone calls from Dave Mendelssohn, the slow-talking former deputy who is still deeply connected to his spiritual teacher.

Mendelssohn was one of Centrepoint's worst sex offenders – like his guru, an unabashed paedophile who feels no guilt for his actions because he believes he did nothing wrong.

He served three years in prison for his sexual offending and, on his release, returned to live at Centrepoint with three of his young children. When Child Youth and Family began investigating their welfare in 1999, he boarded a plane for Australia with his family, managing to avoid questions about his convictions because he had changed his name.

Like many former Centrepointers, he now lives in a new, if smaller "intentional community" cohabiting with five other former residents of the Albany commune, plus his children, on a macadamia hobby farm in rural Australia. Child Youth and Family, unhappy he had fled their inquiry, tipped off Australian child protection authorities, but after visiting the farm they took no further action.

Mendelssohn calls Potter weekly and would like nothing more than to fly his spiritual leader over to live out his last days with them. Potter's convictions make this an impossibility and Mendelssohn's – now known to Australian authorities – preclude him from ever returning to him in New Zealand. Earlier this year, he came probably as close as he ever will to reuniting with his guru, when Goodyear-Smith paid him a visit at their neo-Centrepoint in the northern rivers of New South Wales.

Potter, once all-powerful, no longer looms large in the minds of the children who grew up as his own, their parents' claim on them surrendered to the spiritual authority of the former vacuum cleaner salesman. Said Gibson of her interviewees: "He didn't figure in their thoughts."

What did haunt many of the former children of Centrepoint, and what made it difficult for them to move on in life, was an abiding sense of injustice. Very few of those abused had contact with the police, let alone saw the crimes against them recorded and the offenders punished in court, Gibson said. Some of the adults who were around at the time, and were aware of the widespread abuse, have gone on to professional success without ever suffering consequences for neglecting their duty of care to the children of the commune.

"They just don't get how the adults could not have stopped this, how they could not get it," she said. "There's a strong sense justice has not been done."

Similar statements on sexual abuse and counselling

Sexual activity between adults and children is not inherently harmful

Bert Potter: "What's wrong with sexual contact? I don't think they had enough. That's not just children at Centrepoint; I think those that didn't get to Centrepoint are probably much worse off and need a lot more sexual contact." (to Sunday Star-Times)

Felicity Goodyear-Smith: "Sexual abuse workers usually operate under the assumption that all sexual activity between adults and children is inevitably harmful. This is not actually supported by the limited sociological and psychological evidence available." (First Do No Harm, 1993)

That counsellors planted the harmful notion that childhood sexual activity constituted abuse

Potter: "A lot of things that [the former residents] are quoting as damaging are because they've been told that they're damaging. They've been told: `The sex you've had was an abusive situation.' But they were quite happy." (to Star-Times)

Goodyear-Smith: "The subsequent counselling ... they have undergone may have contributed to their seeing themselves as seriously and permanently harmed from their childhood sexual experimentation ... " (FDNH)

Characterising counsellors as having unhealthy ideological agendas stemming from their own mental or emotional problems

Potter: "Many of the counsellors and therapists in the sexual abuse field, under a facade of being understanding and caring, are, in reality, negative angry people. They create permanent victims and believe in vengeance therapy which allows them to project their anger and hostility through their clients." (Living and Loving, 1994)

Goodyear-Smith: "Some [sexual abuse counsellors] identify themselves as victims of past sexual abuse... This raises the disturbing possibility that people who have been diagnosed as permanently psychologically damaged are working as sexual abuse counsellors." (FDNH)

A view of ACC as a scam or easy ticket for counsellors

Potter: "...Once they enter the sexual abuse area they find that they are plugged into a guaranteed source of income through the ACC payment system. All they have to do is follow the party line and remain politically correct..." (L&L)

Goodyear-Smith: "Counsellors are making good money. The ACC scam's one of the biggest there is. Counselling costs this country millions of dollars a year, and I have evidence to show that some of it is making people worse." (To the Dominion, 1997)

Claims of sexual abuse being used as an easy out by victims

Potter: "Everything is blamed on the alleged sexual abuse that may have happened many years earlier." (L&L)

Goodyear-Smith: "Being a victim of sexual abuse can be an excellent scapegoat. Many people who discover that they were abused as children then blame all their social and psychological problems on this experience. This can effectively absolve them from responsibility for their subsequent behaviour." (FDNH) "Today, in some circles it is even chic to be a victim." (FDNH)

THE CONTROVERSIAL DSM-IV DIAGNOSIS

In 2005, a team comprised of Goodyear-Smith and two other researchers published ACC-commissioned research attempting to determine whether counsellors, or higher-qualified professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists, were more effective at providing treatment to sexual abuse victims.

The research was inconclusive, but made the recommendation, unsupported by the data it assessed, that an initial assessment of a mental injury according to a DSM-IV diagnosis should be made by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist at the outset of treatment.

A similar requirement was subsequently a major point of contention in ACC’s 2009 “clinical pathway” for sensitive claimants, severely restricting access for sexual abuse victims to counselling and support. The requirement had not appeared in the widely accepted “best practice” Massey guidelines released a year earlier, which ACC had cited as having informed the formulation of the pathway.

ACC initially denied it had commissioned the 2005 paper, but later acknowledged it was one of four pieces of research it had funded into the area of sensitive claims since 1999. It denies the recommendation in the 2005 paper had any influence on the pathway.

TIMELINE

1925: Herbert "Bert" Potter born in Christchurch.

1977: The deed founding the Centrepoint Community Growth Trust is signed, signalling plans to establish an "intentional community" offering personal growth through open communication. The group is an outgrowth of Potter's Shoreline Trust, run out of the former vacuum cleaner salesman's Auckland home, which offered therapeutic "encounter groups" based on a model popularised in California in the 1960s.

1978: The group moves on to a 30-acre property on Auckland's North Shore. Work begins on the communal longhouses which will eventually house 300 people, who are required to sign over their possessions. Potter reigns as spiritual leader, his disciples living according to his rule of openness around emotions and bodily functions, which included sharing toilets, showers, and sleeping quarters. Open sex expression is encouraged, including with children, and many children are abused. Massey University researchers say there is evidence some paedophiles were drawn to the community because of the access it afforded to children.

Early-mid 1980s: A local detective begins looking into allegations of child sex abuse at the community but, he tells the Star-Times, had his investigation stymied by a superior officer who was subsequently convicted of unrelated child sex abuse. Former residents say his inquiries bring an end to the era of open paedophilia but push it underground.

1986: Bert Potter's son John meets Felicity Goodyear-Smith, a GP with a background in sexual abuse care.

1988: They move on to Centrepoint land, living in a housetruck next to Bert Potter's house.

1989: Goodyear-Smith becomes Centrepoint's GP, providing primary medical care to the community in which she spends "much of [her]non-doctoring time". Potter Sr is running a major drug production operation, which sees the community awash with LSD, MDMA and ketamine.

1990: Potter Sr convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years on drug charges.

1992-3: Potter Sr convicted to seven-and-a-half years for indecent assaults on five children. Five other men, including John Potter and Dave Mendelssohn, are convicted on charges of indecently assaulting minors, sexually assaulting minors and attempted rape of a minor. Bert Potter's wife Margaret, and Mendelssohn's former wife Susanne Brighouse also face sex charges but are not convicted.

2000: The community is disbanded.

2005: Goodyear-Smith and two other researchers publish ACC-commissioned research into sexual abuse counselling, which includes a recommendation that psychiatrists or clinical psychologists assess clients according to DSM-IV mental injury criteria at the beginning of treatment.

2009: A similar requirement appears as a precondition to claim acceptance in ACC's "clinical pathway" for victims of sexual violence, despite not appearing in the "best practice" Massey guidelines released the previous year, which were cited as having guided the formulation of the pathway.

Sunday Star Times