WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A well-known New Zealand businessman who was found with hundreds of child sex abuse images gave up his knighthood Tuesday before it was stripped from him.
Ron Brierley last month pleaded guilty to three charges in an Australian court, sparking a rarely invoked procedure to strip him of the honor he received more than 30 years ago.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her intention was to remove the title from Brierley if he hadn't written first to relinquish it. Ardern said Britain's Queen Elizabeth II had been informed, and that Brierley will longer be able to use the honorific “Sir."
“I think its a sad day for the children of New Zealand and, indeed, the world, when someone is found guilty of possessing such horrendous images,” Ardern told reporters. “It is only right that there are significant consequences for that because as a country, we have to reject anyone that thinks that is okay.”
Ardern said Brierley had been found with over 1,000 images portraying children being abused, which had completely rewritten his history.
Brierley faces a maximum 10 years in prison when he is sentenced. He was caught with some images in his luggage at the Sydney International Airport in 2019 and authorities later found more at his Sydney home.
One of his guilty pleas relates to photographs of girls as young as 2 in sexually suggestive poses. Another relates to a data storage device found at his home that allegedly contained more than 1,600 images of child abuse.
Brierley’s lawyer has disputed the number of images in question.
Now 83, Brierley in the 1970s and ’80s executed a series of aggressive business maneuvers that grew Brierley Investments Ltd. into one of the nation’s largest corporations.
His profile had faded somewhat following the 1987 stock market crash, but he continued to make business deals in New Zealand and in his new home of Australia.
Business publication NBR lists Brierley as among New Zealand’s 100 wealthiest people, with an estimated fortune of 220 million New Zealand dollars ($153 million).
The next court date in Brierley's case has been scheduled for later in May.