Ron Brierley gives up knighthood after pleading guilty to possessing child sexual abuse material

Ron Brierley has surrendered his knighthood after last month pleading guilty to possessing child sexual abuse material.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, Brierley has written to the Clerk of the Executive Council to tender his resignation as a Knight Bachelor. The Queen has been informed.

"The Clerk of the Executive Council wrote to him on April 6 2021 on behalf of the Prime Minister, giving him 30 days in which to provide any information that he considered relevant before the Prime Minister made her decision," the statement says.

"Brierley may no longer use the title 'Sir', and he has been asked to return his insignia."

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

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, the Prime Minister said if Brierley hadn't offered to resign the honour, it would have been taken from him.

"We instigated a process. My intention was, if he were not to offer up the knighthood, that it would be removed," Ardern said. "In notifying him of that process, he has resigned the title as it were. But I am really clear, if he had not done so, it would have been removed."

Brierley pleaded guilty to three of 17 charges relating to child sexual abuse material possession in Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court in April. The remaining charges were withdrawn.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.

The disgraced businessman was back in court last week for an administrative hearing.

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".

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.

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.