Crown responder disbelieved abuse allegations

Iona Holsted was singled out for criticism in the Royal Commission’s report on redress for being among officials who suggested lawyers were drumming up false or exaggerated claims

The Government appointed career bureaucrat Iona Holsted to lead a unit responding to victims of state abuse, despite a Royal Commission documenting her previous allegations that a lawyer representing victims was behaving unethically and persuading her clients to embellish their claims of abuse.

Holsted, who is currently Secretary of the Ministry of Education, was appointed to lead the Crown Response Unit (CRU), a state entity set up to respond to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care. It is also responsible for setting up a redress scheme to respond to those who were victims of abuse while they were children in the state’s custody. It was set up in 2018.

Holsted’s appointment is mentioned in a briefing to the incoming Minister of Public Service Andrew Little, who holds responsibility for the CRU. The previous minister was Chris Hipkins, but the portfolio was taken over by Little in February, shortly after Hipkins became Prime Minister.

The briefing explains that the governance of the CRU is provided by a number of chief executives from Oranga Tamariki, the Ministries of Education, Health, Social Development, the Ministry for Disabled People and Crown Law. These chief executives “collectively agreed that the lead chief executive for the Crown Response would be Iona Holsted, Secretary for Education”.

However, Holsted is singled out for criticism in the commission’s report on redress. It mentions that “some officials suggested lawyers were drumming up false or exaggerated claims”.

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