Sir Ron Brierley pleads guilty to possessing child sexual abuse material in Sydney, Jacinda Ardern begins process to remove knighthood

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asked for the process to remove Sir Ron Brierley's knighthood to begin after he plead guilty to possessing child sexual abuse material.

Brierley pleaded guilty to three of 17 charges in the Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday morning. The remaining charges were withdrawn. While Brierley admitted to possessing some of the images, he has disputed the exact number of images found on his devices.

At a court appearance last December, Brierley entered no plea.

He will next appear in court on April 30.

Following the guilty pleas, a spokesperson for Ardern said: "There is a process for forfeiture, and the Prime Minister has asked for this to be initiated".

He was knighted in 1988 for services to business management and the community.

A knighthood can be removed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister when it's believed the individual's actions would bring the honours system into disrepute. 

Under the forfeiture process, the holder of the honour is given 30 days to respond with any comments they wish the Prime Minister to take into account. 

"If the Prime Minister decides to proceed with recommending forfeiture of the honour, he or she will write to The Queen advising her to cancel that person’s appointment to the Order," the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet says.

"Once The Queen has approved the proposal, the holder of the honour is notified and asked to return their insignia and warrant of appointment. They may no longer use the post-nominal letters associated with the honour after their name. If the honour has a title associated with it, the person is no longer entitled to use the title."

Brierley, 83, was arrested at Sydney Airport back in December 2019. Authorities searched his luggage and found "large amounts of child abuse material" on his devices, according to a statement from New South Wales police at the time. It included images of children aged between two and 15 years old, court documents said.

He was initially charged with six counts of possessing child abuse material, but additional charges have been added over the last year. 

The multi-millionaire is well-known as a corporate raider and for founding R.A. Brierley Investments in March 1961. He began it with zero capital, but it would go on to become one of New Zealand's largest companies. At one point, it had 160,000 stakeholders, with stakes in companies like Air New Zealand.

He would also go onto lead Mercantile Investments, which became notorious for its takeovers in Australia. He stepped down from that role in June 2019, citing age and health issues.