30 Jun 2013

Glenn inquiry head confident abuse claim baseless

9:46 pm on 30 June 2013

The chair of the Glenn Inquiry into family violence says he is confident there is no truth to an abuse allegation against Sir Owen Glenn, the millionaire businessman behind the inquiry.

The accusation was made in 2002 in Hawaii where Sir Owen entered a plea of no contest in court - meaning a defendant neither admits nor disputes a charge. The case was then dismissed in 2004.

Sir Owen has issued a statement in which he says there is no truth to the allegation and he now regrets not fighting the case in court.

However, he says legal advice at the time was to enter a no contest plea which resulted in the case being dismissed.

Two senior executives who quit the Glenn Inquiry into family violence in May say news of an abuse allegation against Sir Owen Glenn came as a complete surprise.

In a joint statement, former executive director Ruth Herbert and operations director Jessica Trask say everyone in the organisation signed a declaration stating they had no history which would embarrass the inquiry.

Inquiry board chair Bill Wilson says he did not know about the allegation before Saturday but has since been fully briefed.

"With the benefit of that detailed knowledge, I can say that I'm absolutely confident that there was no substance to the allegation against Sir Owen and it was therefore of no surprise that it was dismissed by the Hawaiian courts."

He says he is confident a declaration Sir Owen made to them about having no history of violence is accurate.

Mr Wilson says he remains confident for the future of the inquiry, but is concerned this kind of attention is diverting people from the task of addressing domestic violence.

Prime Minister John Key says the allegations made against Sir Owen would be very serious if they were true.

"I take an extremely dim view of anybody that would strike a woman, I mean that is just totally unacceptable, but you know he's arguing that he didn't do that."

Mr Key says the allegations did not come up during checks made for the Queens Birthday Honours List, in which Sir Owen was knighted.