Former Gloriavale member files landmark legal case against community's leadership

Newshub can reveal papers have been filed in Greymouth's High Court in a landmark case against the leadership structure and culture of Gloriavale. 

The action is being taken by former Gloriavale member, John Ready who was expelled from the religious community almost three years ago, but his family remain inside. He said they remain too fearful to leave. 

"Something must be done. I'm going to stand up and I'm going to do it," he told Newshub.

Ready said he's not after money, but rather, he wants accountability.  

"We're asking for the removal of the trustees because of their dereliction in duty."

Brian Henry, who is part of the legal team, said he felt it was his duty as a barrister to get involved. 

He said the legal action is being taken for the sake of the youth living there, especially the girls who are particularly vulnerable.

"They have been sentenced to a life that to me is just unbelievably unacceptable and that's happening here in our country."

Henry said in Gloriavale, women "are horribly disadvantaged" and are treated as "homemakers and baby-makers." 

"They're trapped. They're totally trapped in what to me is a horrible life."

He's working alongside Dennis Gates, who's come out of retirement to help with the case. Both formerly worked on the Winebox inquiry and also helped the sole survivor of the 2001 RSA killings, Susan Couch, get compensation from the Department of Corrections. 

Everyone in Gloriavale must sign a commitment to the leaders - known as Shepherds. 

A 2019 commitment letter obtained by Newshub states those living there must "willingly submit myself to them" and all assets must be handed over. 

John Ready said it's all about dominating the people there, "the controlling of finances, the controlling of movement". 

"[The Gloriavale community] don't know what they're giving away because they've never had it in the first place. You can't agree to give something away that you've never had. They've been conned in other words."

Late on Wednesday afternoon, the case against Gloriavale was filed in the High Court in Greymouth. 

Ready was there along with a group of supporters who had travelled there from around the South Island including former member James Harrison, who told Newshub he admired Ready's courage. 

"It's about time someone stood to Gloriavale and demanded some justice," he said.  

Liz Gregory from the Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust said it was an "incredibly significant day". 

"This will go down as one of Gloriavale's biggest days in history," Gregory told Newshub.  

Ready was kicked out of Gloriavale in 2017 for having a religious pamphlet that contained Christian messages in contrast to the teachings preached by the group's leaders. 

However, he has continued to go into Gloriavale to see his wife, Purity, and 10 children. 

He said his family remain there as fear has been "drummed into them" and they're worried they'll go to hell if they leave. 

Ready said Gloriavale's leaders have attempted to stop him visiting his family by asking his wife Purity to trespass him. Purity has refused to do this. 

As he's now an outsider, Ready's now considered a "reprobate" by the leaders. 

His youngest child Andrew was born a year and a half ago, when Ready had been banished from the sect. Because his wife fell pregnant during this time, one of the leaders claimed his boy was also a reprobate. 

Ready said according to one of the leaders, "the child is lost and damned forever". 

"Someone in the leadership actually wrote that down on paper". 

Ready is angry and disillusioned, but he said he's confident about his purpose. 

He said the legal action is about trying to give the 600 people living in Gloriavale a degree of freedom - freedom to have dreams and the ability and right to pursue them. 

In a completely separate court case on Wednesday, a 20-year-old member of the Gloriavale community appeared in court charged with abusing boys. 

He can't be named for legal reasons, but he's been charged with indecently assaulting three boys aged between 12 and 16 years old. He was granted bail after appearing on Wednesday morning at the Greymouth District Court.

Former Gloriavale member, John Ready, is taking a High Court case against Gloriavale. 

You can support his efforts by visiting his Givealittle.