Royal Commission: Calls for commissioner Paul Gibson to step down

Radio New Zealand

Sept. 24, 2019

By Katie Scotcher

The commissioner embroiled in the latest scandal at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care says he won’t be stepping down.

Paul Gibson is responsible for the group of sexual abuse survivors who advise the Royal Commission as it investigates historical abuse of children in state and church care.

Yesterday it was revealed that a partner of one of the advisory group members is a convicted child sex offender and has attended gatherings alongside members of the group.

The minister responsible for the Royal Commission, Tracey Martin, has been taking legal advice and will meet commissioners today.

Tracey Martin said if she needed to take steps to ensure the success of the Royal Commission of Inquiry she would do so.

She was looking for a “logical reason” rather than a “lack of competence” for the three month time difference between being aware the man had convictions and finding out what they were.

“We’ve got a circumstance here that has alarmed the public, has alarmed survivors – and they’re the most important people – and quite frankly it has alarmed members of Parliament,” Ms Martin told Morning Report.

“While we appreciate that many survivors had lives that then, because of the trauma of their childhood meant that they gained criminal convictions later on in life, and we don’t want to penalise them for that pathway by somehow stopping them being involved in the Royal Commission, there are certain crimes that are trigger crimes that strongly affect survivors.

“So I think with hindsight there are certain crimes that should have been screened for with anybody that was coming anywhere near the survivors inside the Royal Commission of Inquiry.”

The final decision on whether Mr Gibson may have to resign rests with the Governor-General, but Ms Martin said she wanted the Royal Commission to succeed and keep the trust of survivors.

“If that means that I need to take steps to ensure that if there is a lack of competence that something is done to ensure that that trust remains then I will take those steps.”

If other members of panel expressed a lack of confidence a commissioner, it would be up to the Commission chairman to step in, she said.

In May, the inquiry’s 20-member Survivor Advisory Group was set up to represent victims of abuse.

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