Warning: This story discusses issues related to rape and sexual violence.

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin says she is “horrified” that a child sex offender attended meetings of the inquiry into state abuse of children but that there isn’t much she can do about it.

Newsroom reported on Tuesday that the Royal Commission into state abuse of children allowed a convicted child sex offender into three meetings with survivors.

The man is the partner of one of advisory group members and was attending as a support person. The commission was told that the man needed to notify police ahead of any travel.

Published in Stuff

Martin, who has responsibility for inquiries as Minister for Internal Affairs, did not express confidence in the inquiry and said she had “severe concerns about their decision-making abilities.”

But as the inquiry took the form of a Royal Commission, its independence meant she had little power to change things, Martin said.

“Survivors were very clear – they wanted an independent Royal Commission of Inquiry. That means I have very little powers over the Royal Commission of Inquiry.”

“I have no powers over operational matters. But I am asking DIA to let me know what powers I have when I am concerned around decision-making made by commissioners.”

Martin declined to comment on whether she believed Survivor Advisory Group sponsoring commissioner Paul Gibson needed to step down.

“We’re trying to maintain confidence in what is a very important commission of inquiry,” Martin said.

She said the first she had heard of it was reading the news on Tuesday morning and it had “horrified” her.

“I’m pretty horrified. I think this is a really shocking situation for such an important inquiry,” Martin said.

“These people have fought for so long with the trauma they have carried from their childhood – to be believed in many cases – a situation like this is just not constructive or helpful or healing for them.”

National leader Simon Bridges said Martin needed to explain how this had happened.

“The Royal Commission found out in May that this person had a criminal conviction but it was August before it got further details about what the conviction was for, it was during that time that he attended the meetings,” Bridges said.

“As a father and a former Crown Prosecutor, I find it unconscionable that a paedophile was allowed anywhere near this Royal Commission.”

Bridges said he did hope the inquiry could carry on.

Martin said it was to be expected that she found out about the matter in the news media rather than through a briefing from the inquiry itself, as a Royal Commission of Inquiry was very independent.

The $78m state abuse inquiry has run into other issues, including the resignation of its first chair Sir Anand Satyanand.

By Henry Cooke
Published in Stuff
24 September 2019