John Ready Sentencing Reflections

John Ready Sentencing Reflections

Author: Liz Gregory

The Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust assists people leaving Gloriavale – and you need to know it’s a messy and complicated space to work in. We know that many people who live in Gloriavale and who leave Gloriavale have been abused (in various way). We also know that some have perpetrated abuse (in various ways). We know many are eagerly looking forward to starting their news lives – having come to a recognition that the culture they had been living in was not safe or Christian. We know that leaving is a big step to take. We know that people who leave Gloriavale exhibit a lot of courage. We know they have many issues to deal with – and they suffer pain and loss from things that they experienced in there.

We are privileged to watch them on a journey to wholeness and change. We want to support leavers. And sometimes that means supporting them through the messy stuff – like court cases and investigations relating to their poor behaviour when they lived in Gloriavale. We don’t wash our hands of imperfect people. We want to support them and encourage them, as well as the victims. And this week it was John Ready’s turn…. 

You might remember John Ready has been hugely instrumental in bringing about change in Gloriavale after being thrown out. He and his Mum Sharon Ready spearheaded the Civil lawsuit against Gloriavale in 2020. He features in the Gloriavale film (now free on TV3) which follows the legal struggle. He is the guy who put up his hand and said “I will do something about this”. But he knew he would also eventually have to put up his  hand and say, “I also did wrong stuff.”

“The unacceptable behaviours that you’ve had in the past, you’ve got to face them eventually and I think you do it as honestly and courageously as possible.” (John Ready 2023)

Yesterday John Ready was sentenced in court for two charges of assault with a weapon. He assaulted two 11-year old boys who were under his supervision on the dairy farm. He administered punishment to them by striking them with a metal fencing implement on their backsides, causing discomfort and bruising. John pled guilty and he was sentenced to 3 months of Community Detention (Electronic Monitoring) between the hours of 9pm – 3am. The judge recognised the difficulty in selecting a sentence that would appropriately balance the offending while also recognising the change in the man, in his circumstances and thinking, and his need to now provide for his large family on the outside. The judge made this most incredible comment:

“I believe that the sentence needs to reflect what you have done. There is a temptation to elevate the punitive element of sentencing, but I believe you have spent enough of your life living in chains for me to be able to prioritise other purposes.” (Judge Savage)

On hearing the judge utter those words “lived long enough in chains” I grabbed Virginia’s hand (John’s sister). There was a recognition that the judiciary are starting to recognise Gloriavale is a place of chains and entrapment. Powerful.

John is keen for his story to be shared. He did not want to duck and dive and minimise or even apportion blame. He has been willing to accept any sentence handed down. He wants to set a pattern for how to face up to your wrong-doing. And he calls on Gloriavale to do the same.

Below is an interview John and his sister Virginia Courage did following the sentencing.

Jean: how did you feel when the judge said you’d believed you’d lived in chains for long enough?

John: I thought it was a very considerate statement and that the sentence was very fair. And I did try to own what I did right from the start I didn’t try to run from it or make excuses. So I think it was a fair sentence handed down.

Jean: How do you feel about what happened?

John: All those things are in hindsight and so in hindsight it’s like okay that was over the top, not appropriate and unacceptable that’s why I put up my hand to say yeah I did do this and I would abide by what the court handed down to me. I also didn’t want to… Much of what I have been brought up on and I have rejected as being false, and the way that the community I came from run for cover and deny everything and in my opinion just flat out lie when faced with what they’ve done, I certainly didn’t want to do that. I wanted to admit where I failed and where I broke the law.

Jean: What were you thinking at the time? Was it normal to hit kids in GV?            

John: It was very normal when I was growing up. But to be fair at the time, and I’ll be completely honest about it, there was certainly a frowning down on hitting kids. But I had my own nature and my own demons to deal with as well and that’s why I put my hand up and said yes I did. And I don’t want to blame Gloriavale for my failings. That gives me a position when I do point out their failings, that it has some merit because I’m not just blaming them for everything. I’m hoping to blame them for what I believe they’re guilty of and owning  what I’m guilty of and thereby show this is not vindictive or that I’m trying to be nasty. But I’m saying this is unacceptable behaviour and I’m willing to put my hand up when I’ve behaved unacceptably as well.

Jean: Have you managed to speak to the two boys involved.

John: Prior to this even coming up, it was my nephew who brought it up to me. And I even had trouble remembering it. I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about and he persisted over a number of times and then it jolted my memory and he seemed quite upset about it and I was like yeah and in hindsight I treated you wrongly and I apologised every time he brought it up because he seemed upset by it. I apologised and said I wish I could do more.  But all I can do is keep apologising and show my humility by my willingness to apologise.

Jean: What’s life like for you now?

John: Well, there’s lots of heavy responsibilities because with freedom comes responsibility. As a family I think we are doing well and we are growing and adapting to our new environment and we are going forward to being productive members of the wider community and not a burden and also taking responsibility. And I’ve had this opportunity with my own family and my own boys to say this is what happens when you break the law. Don’t break the law. I’ve been very upfront and open with them and I haven’t tried to hide it. This is a learning opportunity.

Jean: How do you feel given you’re making this progress in the outside world and you still have to come and revisit tough times in the past?

John: It just goes with the territory. Wouldn’t it be great if you could run away from the past? But you can’t. The unacceptable behaviours that you’ve had in the past, you’ve got to face them eventually and I think you do it as honestly and courageously as possible.

Liz: How did you feel when the judge said to the people in the in the courtroom today, “I believe this man has spent enough time of his life living in chains”?

John: I was touched emotionally but it’s hard for me to define. I felt there was a bit of an emotional tug there. To be fair I’d have to think about it to process that, because it’s quite deep. Because you’re not in physical chains, but you’ve got psychological barriers and theological barriers and it takes a bit of unpacking. But I think the judge was very accurate in creating a word picture of what was going on internally. These aren’t physical chains but there are definitely internal chains. And as I alluded to before I have some of those internal chains that are put there myself and so I have to take responsibility for those. And some of them the Community that I grew up in has to take responsibility for.


Jean Edwards RNZ Interview with Virginia Courage.

Jean: What did you think about what Judge Savage had to say?

Virginia: I was amazed and very grateful for his insight into the case as a whole story and not just an isolated event out of someone’s life. It’s not easy to come out of Gloriavale because you actually know that they have actually damaged you morally – not just the physical and the verbal things you’ve done but they’ve tainted you morally, and so many of the people that I am in contact with who have made the journey out of Gloriavale it’s their own awakening to the moral destruction that’s just happening to them that actually leads them out of Gloriavale‘s culture.

And I know that John has never tried to hide that he’s a flawed human being and I really appreciate his honesty through this whole scenario. It’s not easy when you’re trying to say that things are unacceptable and yet you know yourself that you’ve participated.

I think the other thing it does is it gives a tremendous amount of weight to the issues with the Employment Case that’s still awaiting that judgement. The acknowledgement that you’ve got someone who’s saying that abuse did happen in the workplace. Children were put in situations that were harmful and they were working in commercial industry and they were not able to prevent and isolate themselves from the accepted culture of what Gloriavale would expect from a child, and the disciplines that the supervisor could inflict on them. So I feel like it’s such a tick really for the people who stood up in the Employment case.  Gloriavale are trying to downplay what happened. They are trying to ignore what happened and yet you’ve got someone here today who said “this happened, in the workplace, to children and I’m acknowledging that.”


John’s lawyer Kelly Beazley:

Beazley said that the reports had been presented to the judge including the psychological report. She was suggesting that John should be convicted and discharged. Her arguments were that the offending happened at Gloriavale around 2015, and that what he did was considered normal behaviour in there. At that time he was still under control of the leaders and he was isolated in the system. However he started questioning the culture he was in before his exile and he accepted responsibility early. He also gave a guilty plea. He acknowledged that he had been on a personal journey himself and that he needed to put his hand up first and that he was fighting for everyone else and Gloriavale. And that’s what he’s done. She said that there were others in Gloriavale who were also being charged for similar offending but assessment of each case needs to be done on a case by case basis. And her recommendation for this case alone showed that a discharge without conviction would be an appropriate sentence. The lawyer also started to talk about potential rehabilitation options however the judge stopped her and said that he did not read anywhere in the psychological report that there was a need for any rehabilitation. She also noted that Mr Ready was willing to engage in restorative justice and wanted to, however it did not proceed. She noted John has apologised to one of the victims who was his nephew prior to the case coming to the police’s attention.

Police Submission:
The police then gave their submission and said that they were looking at a starting point of 12 months imprisonment but with discounts for the early guilty plea. They said there were unusual circumstances around this case, however ultimately the offending was serious. The victim impact statements noted that one victim suffered scarring because of the incident. They accepted that violence was prevalent in the society however Gloriavale was still governed by our NZ laws, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. They said that a 12 month sentence starting point was appropriate however they knew that with his early pleas and specific circumstances of the offending, that his sentence would not come anywhere near a custodial sentence. However the Police said that some action was required and a sentence other than conviction and discharge was appropriate.

Judge Sentence:

The judge summed up the case saying that 7 to 8 years ago you were charged with the responsibility of looking after two 11-year-old boys with the dairy herd. They were in your charge. You were unhappy with how they were carrying out the work. So you hit them both with a metal fence standard. You asked them to stand against the wall while you struck them on their backsides area. You told them that they had been struck to discourage disobedience. You have accepted you did this and that you’re guilty. Both counsels have acknowledged this sentencing is a difficult exercise. You were born into Gloriavale’s rules and values and they were all you knew. I understand that physical discipline was commonplace in the community, so to a degree you were acting in a manner that was consistent with all that you had been taught and the culture of the community that you lived in. However, the victims were vulnerable and they were completely subservient to you and you abused the position of authority over them that you had.

I acknowledge you may also have found yourself in the same situation when you were a child. So I would’ve expected you to have used this knowledge to modify your behaviour. After the offences you worked outside Gloriavale in farming, and you begin to question the leadership which lead to your expulsion. It took you 2 to 3 years to extricate your wife and children from Gloriavale. However I am required to hold you to account. I know that you have rejected the Gloriavale way of life at no small personal cost and you are now living amongst people who have rejected the stark and harsh, disciplinarian way of living that was very much part of your early life.

I do not believe that rehabilitation is necessary.

I believe that the sentence needs to reflect what you have done. There is a temptation to elevate the punitive element of sentencing, but I believe you have spent enough of your life living in chains for me to be able to prioritise other purposes.

I am satisfied on this occasion the least restrictive sentence is an electronic one of community detention structured for minimal impact on your employment.

I order community detention by way of electronic monitoring  on your property between the hours of 9 pm and 3 am, for three months starting today.


Final Thoughts from Liz

Leaving Gloriavale isn’t a simple act. It’s complicated. But it warms my heart to see the humility of some leavers who have done wrong, and the grace of some of the victims, and how both groups are trying to move forwards in a way that helps the healing process. It’s complex. I want to honour anyone who has come out of Gloriavale and who has started the process of rebuilding their integrity. It all starts with truth-telling.