Aaron Smale's coverage of state abuse led to a Royal Investigation Commission. But he believes that the Commission's mandate will turn it into another chapter in a 20-year coverage.
Royal Commissions has an aura about those who give the impression of great powers exercised for a good cause.
What is not always understood is every way they can be compromised. And the best way to undermine a royal commission is to fine with the details in the front. If you want to sabotage a royal commission, you go for scope, funding, reference and timeframe.
Since the notice of termination of the Royal Commission for State Abuse has been announced, the headlines have focused on the Church's introduction, which is an extension of the scope. Most media have not understood what that means. But they have also missed a great detail buried in the frame of reference.
Firstly, the church abuses.
I wholeheartedly support the need for a request for church abuse, but I think it should be completely separate. For quite a few reasons, I believe that both groups will change briefly by combining the two institutions during one survey. The state is a different institution other than the church. It has complex legal structures and leaves a large piece of paper in the wake of its business. Although some of this archive file has been compromised, there is still a lot of evidence that the Royal Commission will be able to dig in.
The church, on the other hand, is a legal phantom. While it has a complex and global hierarchy, it does not have much in the way of a legal status. How will the King Commission be able to investigate such an elusive institution, one that still refuses to take full responsibility in global terms. And why should the taxpayer finance an investigation into an institution that is not responsible for New Zealand citizens?
The other misconception is that this investigation is primarily about sexual abuse. While it is undoubtedly a central issue, state abuse is far outweighed. It must ask questions about why children were removed from their families, in some cases for trivial reasons. the high levels of physical violence The almost complete lack of education; the high number of maori in proportion to their number. These problems do not seem to be an important focus for the Church's survivors.
There have been parallels with the Royal Commission for the investigation of sexual assault in Australia. But that parallel is not necessarily valid. If the issue of the high number of Maori children imprisoned is central to this royal commission (and we have repeatedly said that it is) then the more relevant parallel is the Stolna generations of native children in Australia and North America.
Then there is the logistics, ie. resource. The confidential listening and help service took seven years to hear from more than 1100 victims of state abuse. It's less than 200 per year. CLAS had a narrow mandate and extremely limited resources.
The Royal Commission must not only hear from survivors, it must also investigate the state's role in the abuse, which is a complex and detailed task. Currently, over 500 survivors are registering interest to appear before the Commission and the number is likely to escalate over time. If even five percent of those who walked through state welfare houses in front of the Commission, the numbers will be in thousands, not hundreds.
In any way, the Commission should hear from all the survivors, investigate the role of the state in the abuse and many other issues and do all of this within two years before looking at the church's abuse.
But after investigating this story for almost three years, one of the most worrying things about the King Commission is not the extension of scope, but the mandate. The terms cover a 1999 shutdown. This has some major problems and is likely to cover up a terrible behavior by highly-profiled former politicians and current senior officials.
Firstly, the draft assignment was from MSD and Crown Law. These are the agencies in charge of the institutions where the abuse has occurred and which have provided legal protection for the abuse.
It is related to ask a criminal to monitor a police investigation of their crimes. Conflicts of interest are the concepts that come to mind.
There has never been any credible reason for this date. In fact, lawyer Sonja Cooper has clients who were not even born in 1999 and who have been seriously abused in state welfare. There were institutions that were closed before that date and after that date, so it's not a significant milestone. And the abuse has continued. Recently, I heard a child who committed suicide after being abused in a series of placements.
A little historical extortion is in order to provide a context.
At the end of the 1990s a class package against the crown was commissioned by more than 40 former patients of the youthful unit in Alice Psychiatric Hospital. The youth unit ran from 1972 to 1977 and has all the hallmarks of a barbaric experiment. The statement made allegations of serious abuse including rape and sexual abuse of both staff and adult patients (many of whom were criminally crazy), torture through the use of electrical seizure, serious abuse, illegal detention and other serious crimes.
When Labor came to government in 1999 (that's the date), Helen Clark and Annette King promised to make things better and eventually the krona decided by paying out $ 10 million.
In the process, they explicitly acknowledged the truth's claims. Helen Clark's letter to apologize to victims, opposed by health minister Annette King, said: "What happened to you in the children's and youth unit at Alice Water was unacceptable. What happened to children should not have happened. We are very sorry that did it. "
The apology and payment were supposed to make it all go away. It did not. A second rate of previous patients also made a claim and was also paid.
To complicate things further, top judge Sir Rodney Gallen was asked to judge how the payment would be distributed to the first group of applicants. Strange, that's all he was asked to do. But he was a man with a little curiosity and integrity, asked to talk with the applicants and examined documents and other evidence.
He was so upset about what he heard and saw that he felt compelled to write a report, which was then properly leaked and the government fought in court, without success, to prevent the media from quoting.
Gall's report was strong and unambiguous. In a special speaking line he described what he had discovered as "outrageous in the extreme." He said entirely that the allegations of sexual assault were not just statements, but, in his opinion, had really happened. He arrived at the same conclusion about the other allegations. To paraphrase, the state was obliged to run a torture and abuse.
Police and Chronology
The allegations were then subject to policing, involving more than 40 previous patients (this number grew later). For reasons not yet explained, the police failed to interview these complainants. After being dawdling for about eight years, they finally announced that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, showing a blatant example of willful blindness.
All this despite a judge in court who finds final evidence of serious crimes against children. despite the fact that Helen Clark acknowledged in a formal letter that it happened; despite the fact that this legal opinion was not based on any serious review of the evidence, although the UN repeatedly asked why the Alice allegations had not been properly investigated (ironically, it was still asking when Helen Clark applied for the best job).
So who got the police to not do their job? Was there any political disturbance? Unfortunately, the royal commission can not answer these questions because it can not ask them. After 1999 you will see.
While the police were busy did not do their job, Crown Law was very busy doing their job. Officials who held prime ministers as far back as 1998 called alarm clocks. Not only was the government at risk of serious responsibility for what happened to Alice Bay, there were other institutions that had come to their attention.
Most of the Alice applicants were government departments and had been through other institutions – Kohitere, Holdsworth, Hokio Beach, Owairaka and the like – which was in the welfare department. They had made similar allegations about these institutions. Alice water was simply a Pandoras boxer that officials wanted to keep a lid on. In documents that go back as far as last century, officials flagged the potential responsibility.
Hold the lid
In the first story I did in state abuse in 2016, I spoke to Ros Noonan, the former chief of human rights. Among other things, she told me that when the Alice issue arose, former lawyer Margaret Wilson under pressure from Crown Law officials to "shut it off".
Margaret Wilson has refused to give an interview about this.
But what I've been told is that she tried to resist the pressure of her own officials and was inclined to deal with Alice in a more transparent and transparent manner. It seems she opposed the opposition from her colleagues, the Labor Parliaments, especially Helen Clark and Annette King, who did not want such an investigation of what happened and why.
The rise of all this was Crown Law got its way. It elaborated and implemented a legal strategy that used all technical legal defense to defeat claims of those abused in state institutions. That strategy has not been revoked.
This may sound dry and technical, but it has had some ugly consequences and caused further damage to people who have already suffered terrible abuse. I have seen some spectacular immoral arguments presented in our courts under the Crown Law (paid by you, the taxpayer) to defend the indisputable. These attitudes have penetrated the entire state apparatus that addresses these demands. These attitudes started at the top.
And that's the attitude that has meant that the remedy that the government has continued with has been grossly unfair. It has left a partying sore, which is one of the main reasons that there was a need for a royal commission in the first place.
I have not yet denied all details of how it happened and how it was playing because I have always refused access to relevant documents under the legal privilege, despite the Alice case being made and damned (there is a litany of other bullshit apologies as is too boring to repeat).
But it is clear that the legal strategy was ever signed at the highest levels of government.
Helen Clark must have been in the loop and had supervision – she was in charge. It was not a trivial thing because it had major fiscal and political consequences. Michael Cullen was definitely involved after Margaret Wilson shifted sideways to the speaker's role and he took over as a lawyer-general (to be even-handed, this strategy continued strongly without significant deviation from John Keys's leading government, especially by Attorney General Chris Finlayson and Ministers for MSD, Paula Bennett and Anne Tolley).
Who was involved in these discussions and what was their decision on how to respond to victims of abuse in the state's hands? Well, the Royal Commission will not be able to find out that the 1999 shutdown date prevents it from asking these questions.
Here are some additional questions I have tried to get answers to.
What part did Peter Hughes (currently the State Secretary) play when he was the director of MSD in the 21st century? What advice did he give the minister and what instructions did he give to his staff on how to handle claims for abuse of state departments?
Again, I've had endless difficulties in getting answers. But MSD's behavior gives some clues – it has been hired private investigators and top writers to bulldoze victims to the ground in a court. Or if you want to avoid being crushed by a QC, you can accept a lowball offer.
But the Royal Commission is currently blocked from investigating Hughes decisions and actions.
I would also be interested in knowing what role Una Jagose (currently Solicitor General) played in Crown Law's response to state abuse. I have seen a letter in which she dismissed a victim's claim without a hand in her role as Crown Director, even though the Crown Act knew that the alleged offender had earlier convictions for sexually abusive children. Some of these crimes took place at Epuni Boys Home, where the plaintiff had been resident.
Was this part of a deliberate strategy of denial, although it would be clear to prove that the invasive character of an internal court would be too traumatic for many victims to meet? That evidence ironically led to further police charges and court sentences against the same perpetrators.
Technically, the King Commission will not be able to investigate these issues since they occurred after 1999. Out of scope, in bureaucratic settlement.
If that date stands, the King Commission will be able to do less than I can as an individual journalist. At least, I can ask these questions. Because of this, the Royal Commission is prevented from even doing so.
If I'm wrong, and the government and the officials have nothing to hide, why do not they just delete the 1999 date and let the King Commission take a look at what happened in the past two decades? Why is Ardern and her government so close to the 1999 end date when so many experts have made submissions asking for them to be moved? Why is a royal investigation of state abuse not allowed to investigate the state's response to the abuse when the victims began to talk about it, which largely occurred after 1999?
There is no point, especially when it can take decades for victims of sexual assault to come forward. Many victims of state abuse when they finally met the courage to speak were heard of Crown Law in cold legal language as they lied and allowed further distress. Who approved it? We will not find out the current Commission's current mandate.
In an earlier paragraph, I wrote that I characterized the state as a psychopath – totally absent in regret or empathy, manipulative, narcissistic, no insight into their insult, a high risk of reprisal, etc. In dealing with state abuse, I claimed that the new Zealand The state is a textbook case of a psychopath.
And once again it proves to be scary carefully.
Justice Gallen is right. The abuse that occurred in places like Alice Lake was "outrageous in the extreme." But it's also the state's coverage over the past 20 years. If the King Commission can not investigate that cover, it will simply be another chapter in it.
It will not be a royal commission. It will be a royal omission.