Concerns Howard Temple could declare bankruptcy, so he doesn't have to pay Gloriavale employees

Howard Temple.
Howard Temple. Photo credit: Newshub.

The lawyer for a group of women who were formally residents of Gloriavale has raised concerns at an Employment Court hearing in Wellington the community's Overseeing Shepherd, Howard Temple, could end up bankrupt and not able to pay them for their time spent working as "slaves". 

Barrister Brian Henry raised the issue during a hearing before Chief Employment Court Judge Christina Inglis on Tuesday, where he asked the case be referred to the High Court. 

The case follows former residents Virgina Courage, Pearl Valor, Serenity Pilgrim, Rose Standtrue, Anna Courage and Crystal Loyal winning an Employment Court case in July after they were recognised as employees, not volunteers when they worked at Gloriavale. 

Attention is now turning to who was the employer of the women during their time at the secretive Christian community so they can be paid the wages they never received. 

The court heard Howard Temple is considered the employer. 

However, Henry argued the other people in leadership positions should also be considered employers. 

"The big concern of plaintiffs is that Howard Temple will declare bankruptcy. Howard Temple has no assets and nothing to lose in the current state of the world," Henry said. 

Henry told the court Temple is the leader of an unincorporated association which is not a legal person. 

He said it should be "very simple" to resolve the wages issue but Gloriavale had "deliberately created" a legal structure to make matters difficult for the courts and regulators. 

He said there are obvious risks. 

"We are walking into a carefully laid trap," Henry said. "This is a very unique, carefully designed legal structure. We are the plaintiffs and want it resolved as soon as possible." 

Gloriavale's barrister Phillip Skelton KC said the way Gloriavale was set up was "not a trick". 

He said it was clear from Judge Inglis' original judgement in July Temple had ultimate control of all aspects of life at Gloriavale, including the work members of the community were engaged in. 

"It is the Overseeing Shepherd who should be the employer, rather than the mums, dads and children who are members of the community." 

He went on to say that the financial capacity to meet the Employment Court judgement is not relevant to his status as the employer. 

Judge Inglis has reserved her decision.