Gloriavale police investigation: At least 60 people involved in 'harmful sexual behaviour'

New Zealand Herald/September 16, 2021

By: Kurt Bayer

A police investigation into sexual and physical abuse inside Christian community Gloriavale has identified at least 60 people involved in "harmful sexual behaviour", it's been revealed.

Police launched Operation Minneapolis last year, in partnership with Oranga Tamariki, after mounting concerns about the reclusive West Coast religious sect.

A former member, now aged 21, was today granted a discharge without conviction in Christchurch District Court after pleading guilty to three representative charges of indecent assault against boys at Gloriavale between 2015 and 2018 when he himself was a teenager.

The police summary of facts relating to his case reveals details of Operation Minneapolis, which was launched after police first received information on June 28 last year of an alleged sexual assault on an 11-year-old boy.

The next day police officers interviewed the alleged suspect, who identified "numerous victims".

During Operation Minneapolis there were two screening phases, which spanned all young boys aged between 7 and 16 at the community, which was founded in 1969.

"During this phase, in excess of 60 people were identified as being involved in harmful sexual behaviour as either children, young people or adults," says the police summary of facts.

"The investigation showed offending to span a number of years and identified historical similar boy-boy offending having occurred at some level in earlier generations of youth."

As part of the probe, the former member - who has since left the community - was charged with indecent assault.

Judge Mark Callaghan granted him final suppression today and a discharge without conviction.

The facts of the case can be reported for the first time.

It dates back to 2015, when the defendant was 15, and a victim who was 12-13.

They spent time helping tradesmen who were building the Gloriavale school building.
The pair started meeting up in several locations inside Gloriavale, including a crawl space above an electrical room in the new school building, and various bathrooms.

They took turns masturbating each other, the summary of facts says, before the defendant told the victim he was going to "black him out". Afterwards, the defendant woke him up and instructed him to black him out too.

The victim later told police there were between 10 and 15 incidents.

The second offending involved a victim aged 14-15 between June 2015 and June 2016 in a crawl space above the electrical room at Gloriavale's school building.

The third offending happened between May and September 2018 with a 14-year-old boy while they worked together in a shed referred to as the "bee-box factory".

Although normally used to build beehives, the shed was repurposed to make props for the community's bi-annual concert.

They would meet in secluded areas, the summary says, including underneath the concert stage.

When spoken to by police, the defendant said he was unable to move on from sexual offending that he had been subjected to himself.

"As it had 'lit a flame' within him, he wanted to carry on the behaviour," the summary says.

"The defendant became aware that he shared a common experience with the three victims, in that they all had been offended against by the same person.

"The defendant approached the victims and gradually engaged in conversation regarding this. The victims eventually agreed to continue the sexual behaviour with the defendant."

He denied practising "blacking out" but admitted to trying it on occasion.

In granting the discharge, Judge Callaghan said there was a low risk of the 21-year-old reoffending, and that a conviction would be out of proportion to the consequences of the offending.

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