Labour’s ongoing bungling of dealing with assaults within the party

The Labour Party badly bungled how they handled the complaints of assault that happened at a Young Labour Summer Camp in 2018 – the accused person has just pleaded guilty to two charges of assault.

Worse than this, stories keep emerging of far more serious sexual assaults by a Labour staffer working in the prime Ministers’s office.

The responsibility for this disturbing mismanagement lies mostly with the party president, Nigel Haworth, but Jacinda Ardern is also tainted by association, especially by apparent close association regarding the staffer.

The party tried to deal with the Summer Camp problem internally until complaints went public, an inquiry was ordered, and police lay charges. Haworth and Ardern vowed to sort out their procedures for dealing with complaints. But they have botched again.

It finally got to trial last week, and after chargees were dreduced the trial ended with guilty pleas.

RNZ on September 4 2019:  Man accused of Young Labour camp assaults pleads guilty

The man accused of assaulting teenagers at a Young Labour summer camp has pleaded guilty to two charges of assault on the third day of his trial.

The 21-year-old, who has continued name suppression, was facing five charges of indecent assault in relation to four teenagers.

He was accused of touching the genitals of two young men, kissing and licking a young woman on her neck and face and groping another young woman’s breast and bottom.

Today, midway through the trial, he pleaded guilty to assaulting two young men at the camp near Waihi last year.

The indecent assault charges, in relation to the two young women, were dropped this morning.

The third indecent assault charge, in relation to one of the young men, was dismissed.

The man’s lawyer Emma Priest had earlier asked the jury to consider whether or not the defendant was the sexual offender the Crown suggested he is, or just a young man at a party “caught up in a political storm”.

She has indicated she will apply for a discharge without conviction.

After the charges were withdrawn, Ms Priest said her client had always been prepared to take responsibility for the two assaults.

The man will be sentenced in November.

Judge Russell Collins said he hoped what happened at the camp wouldn’t put young people off being involved in political groups.

It sounds like the assaults were relatively minor but of a sexual nature, and there were multiple victims.

While the man’s name remains suppressed there have been suggestions he may be related to someone senior in the Labour Party.

Following the trial which brought up Labour’s poor handling of the assaults, more details and claims emerge from the party problem in Parliament.

It appears that the Labour Party is failing assault victims badly here. On Sunday from Stuff:

Young Labour abuse victims barred from Parliament offices

​Labour’s president Nigel Haworth barred complainants and witnesses in an alleged bullying and sexual harassment case from one of Parliament’s main buildings.

Leaked emails show Haworth and other senior officials instructed the women, all Labour party members, to stay away from the Labour party offices in Bowen House, where the man at the centre of their complaints works.

Monday from The Spinoff:

A Labour volunteer alleged a violent sexual assault by a Labour staffer. This is her story

A Labour party staffer is alleged to have committed a serious and sustained sexual assault on a 19-year-old volunteer early in 2018. The volunteer told the Spinoff the assault was compounded by the resulting inquiry, during which the alleged perpetrator was not stood down from any duties, which included the supervision of Young Labour volunteers.

The complaint process, undertaken entirely by people within the Labour Party, has left her feeling “angry, quite fearful and desperate”.

The alleged perpetrator has ties throughout the party hierarchy. The woman, who remains a member of the Labour Party, said the man’s level of influence left her constantly frightened of the impact of speaking out.

Over the course of numerous in-depth interviews with The Spinoff, Sarah – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – detailed how she was pinned down and sexually assaulted at the man’s home during a private meeting to discuss party business in early 2018. The process that followed, beginning in April 2018 during the post-Labour Camp review undertaken by Maria Berryman, has completely eroded her faith in the party.

Sarah is one of at least seven people who made formal complaints in relation to the individual, ranging from bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment through to sexual assault. She described him as having a “pretty senior and active” role in the party, and being well-connected with several high profile Labour MPs.

The Party is running out of carpet to sweep this under. Nigel Haworth’s position must be in jeopardy.

Why Labour president must resign over sexual assault allegations

Ardern can no longer pretend that sexual harassment is someone else’s problem.

It will be a painful realisation, but Labour must accept that it has a toxic culture and does not look after its young members.

The first step in addressing that is to fire Haworth, the man who badly failed all the complainants.

This time, the party must protect them – and not turn away.

The Spinoff Editorial: Labour has failed vulnerable young members for a second time. There must be consequences

n the aftermath of revelations about an alleged sexual assault at a 2018 Labour youth summer camp, party leader Jacinda Ardern fronted the media to express her dismay. Both at what had happened, and how her party had responded to it.

“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that,” she said.

Ardern and the party president Nigel Haworth vowed that such an experience and outcome was unacceptable, and when an inquiry was launched, announced that its scope would not simply be limited to the events at the camp, but open to other historical allegations, too.

Watching all this unfold was a young Labour member who had her own harrowing experience within Labour. Hearing their words, she found it within herself to approach the lawyer appointed to lead the investigation. After hearing from the lawyer that the summer camp allegations were taking priority, she met with the party president and assistant general secretary, who formed a panel to investigate her claims.

As The Spinoff’s reporting showed this morning, some of the experiences which motivated the young Labour members to get in touch were incredibly harrowing. The allegations they carried with them were about a single party member, and ranged from bullying to abuse of power to assault to sexual assault.

The very fact of engaging with the party was intimidating. The man they were speaking out about was an influential staffer, well-connected within the party and its parliamentary wing. The fact that it was the same party investigating made them worried about the security of their information, and unsure about where loyalties lay. Yet they fronted up on a Saturday in March, and told their stories to a panel comprised of three members of Labour’s governing council.

That panel appears to have been more intent on containing the story for political reasons, with victims claiming they have been treated badly.

As reported on Sunday by Stuff, the alleged perpetrator remains in his role. And Haworth, who has now presided over two acknowledged failures, remains in his.

He, and his party, need to quickly decide whether that is a state of affairs which should continue. At the very least they need to pledge immediately and unequivocally that all future inquiries will be run by qualified individuals independent of the party.

It has been a long and torturous process. A process which began when a young woman decided to come forward after hearing the most senior individuals in the party encourage her to do so. At the time the party acknowledged having “failed” its young people. Unconscionably, another group of young people are today living with that same sensation – of a party which they loved having badly let them down.

Jacinda Ardern had to front up at her weekly media conference yesterday.

The Spinoff:  ‘Incredibly frustrated, deeply disappointed’: Ardern speaks on Labour inquiry

The prime minister and leader of the Labour Party, Jacinda Ardern, has this afternoon responded to questions relating to allegations of sexual assault by a Labour staffer, and the controversial process surrounding an inquiry into his behaviour. She was “incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed” by the way it had been handled, she said.

“I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she said, speaking to reporters at her weekly post-cabinet press conference.

“I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”

Ardern said she had “sought assurances that they were not [sexual in nature] in the very beginning. I have obvious since seen and heard questions in the media raised as to whether or not that was accurate.”

Perhaps party management and the inquiry panel have tried to shield and distance Ardern from the issues, but their bungling has put Ardern in a very difficult position.

Ardern said she had attended a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, on August 10, after the story was broken by Newshub. She had “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault, and that would be their view, too”, she said.

Following that meeting, Maria Dew, QC, was appointed to undertake a review of the original inquiry.

The prime minister would not say whether the individual at the centre of the inquiry had been stood down from his role in the Labour Party, but that “the person referenced in the article has not been on the precinct … for roughly five weeks now and will not be on the precinct at least for the duration of the inquiry that’s being undertaken by a QC appointed by the Labour Party.”

She said she does not believe the alleged is still attending party meetings and events.

Ardern should know exactly what the situation is with the staffer accused of multiple assaults. David Farrar claims that as party leader Ardern has the power to terminate the employment of the staffer: The clause Jacinda refuses to use

The staffer should at least be suspended pending the outcome of the latest inquiry. That is standard practice in other workplaces.

When asked if she retained confidence in the president of the Labour Party, Nigel Haworth, Ardern said: “I absolutely believe that the president wants to do the right thing by those involved and by the party. But I have had competing reports now on the nature of the allegations and the complaint process. It was a month ago that I expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way it had been handled by the Labour Party. And I’m now going to await the findings of the QC’s report.”

Awaiting the findings will allow this to fester further, but Ardern seems to want to continue with this hands off approach. She should at the very least be talking sternly with Haworth, now.

Ardern said the QC would report directly to her, rather than the NZ Council.

“I need absolute clarity. I have not received it through the competing reports to date … I do need a third party, a reliable, trusted individual to give me clarity and I will act on the findings decisively.”

That’s what she and the party should have demanded over the summer camp assaults issue, and when the Parliamentary staffer story broke.

She added: “I will be seeking assurance that the party will provide all the information that it was provided during the original investigation to the QC.”

She should be demanding that for herself right now.

Newsroom: Labour fails to learn from its mistakes

A little over a year ago, Labour Party president Nigel Haworth promised the party he had presided over since 2015 would change.

In the wake of claims that four young supporters were sexually assaultedduring one of the party’s summer camps, Haworth announced Labour had accepted all the recommendations of a review into the events.

Among them was a commitment to review or develop policies for sexual harassment and assault, bullying and the party’s code of conduct, as well as introducing “a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice”.

Now, claims about Labour’s approach to allegations made against one of its employees suggests the party has not changed as much as it should have – but its president may have to.

…it is Haworth who is the constant in both cases, and Haworth who left Ardern expressing her concern and frustration about the Labour Party’s process.

The Prime Minister would not directly state that he had misled her, but her comment when asked if she had confidence in him that he had “articulated to me that he only wants to ensure he has done the right thing” smacked of damnation with faint praise.

Speaking after the complainants’ concerns came to light, Ardern said the investigation had been “a test of whether or not we’ve now learnt from” the summer camp scandal.

It is a test the party appears to be failing – and Haworth may be the one who has to pay the price.

I think that after two major failures Haworth should step down, and if not he should be stood down.

But there is a bigger political price that may be paid.

This is seriously threatening Brand Jacinda. She has talked strongly about new standards of decency in politics, but has failed to match her own rhetoric with her distancing from these serious issues. I think it is quite possible this will impact on Labour’s re-election chances significantly.

But that’s just a political consequence.

The worst aspect of this is the victims who continue to be very poorly protected and listened to by the party they had thought was better than all of this.


Update: It looks like the problem for labour is growing, with more people and claims coming out today.

Another person (male) has gone to media, corroborating what others have claimed, and claiming the accused man took a swing at him when he confronted him over his treatment of women, and claims a separate physical assault.

Labour assault investigation retraumatised victims – witness

A man who says he was assaulted by a Labour Party staffer would like to meet with Jacinda Ardern to discuss the party’s handling of claims of sexual abuse and assault.

The Prime Minister has refused…

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712678/labour-assault-investigation-retraumatised-victims-witness

This is a problem that doesn’t look like going away for Ardern and Labour. Waiting weeks for the outcome of the QC inquiry to be completed may be too little, too late to avert or stem irreparable damage.

RNZ also gave credence to the open letter.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712686/ardern-urged-by-labour-members-to-act-on-assault-complaints

As did One News.

It comes after an open letter sent by some of the alleged victims of a Labour Party staffer asked for the Prime Minister to “do the right thing”.

Also:

A complaint has been made to Parliamentary Service against the person at the centre of the Labour Party staffer allegations.

It was made by a person who does not work at Parliament, meaning Parliamentary Service cannot act on it.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/complaint-made-parliamentary-service-against-labour-staffer

This may or may not be a different complainant again but the claims are a little different to what was said on RNZ.

Former Labour party volunteer says he raised allegations with party president Nigel Haworth

But one of the 12 complainants told Stuff he directly raised the matter with the investigating panel in March this year.

He has provided Stuff with an email he sent to Haworth in May which refers directly to “this investigation …which involved elements of predatory behaviour, sexual violence and physical violence.”

And the man says he spoke about it in a two-hour meeting with Haworth in early July.

Haworth has been approached for comment but has not replied.

“I definitely had those conversations with him and there is an email proving it,” the complainant told Stuff.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/115693354/former-labour-party-volunteer-says-he-raised-allegations-with-party-president-nigel-haworth

Leave a comment

21 Comments

  1. lurcher1948

     /  10th September 2019

    Why haven’t they gone to the police,I would have, not spread it all over the web with intimate details,and why is Paula Bennet involved as she’s Nationals propaganda spin queen…seems dodgy as complainers went to her not the police.

    Reply
    • That was explained in the Spinoff article.

      Sarah didn’t want to go to the police. She knew people who had been through the process and had told her how difficult it was, she said. “I thought about the amount of people who come forward and then the number who actually get convictions, and it just felt like it was going to be really hard.”

      https://thespinoff.co.nz/unsponsored/09-09-2019/a-labour-volunteer-alleged-violent-sexual-assault-by-a-senior-staffer-this-is-her-story/

      Reply
      • If people DON’T go to the police, that’s their choice. But they can’t expect to have anything done about it in that case.

        I don’t know if the person did this or not, but they are not being given the chance to defend themselves. It would be outrageous to sack anyone on someone else’s say-so without any evidence.

        And if this person is a sex offender, ‘Sarah’ is letting them get away with it.

        Reply
    • Corky

       /  10th September 2019

      Like I said, Lurchy…this is all part of Labour being a ‘one term’ gummit. Labour and sex scandals go together. There’s a long history of Labour’s improprieties. Unfortunately some scandals are so unbelievable our media has never had the nerve to follow the story.
      Why is Paula Bennett involved? Well,that should be self evident.She’s putting the boot into a downed and dying beast. After the next election, we won’t be hearing about Labour for the next 20 years. Hell, even Simon Bridges can’t believe his luck. He my yet rule over a twenty year National Reich. And after Mikey again dealt to Jacinda this morning..my question is: how much worse, politically, can things become for Labour? Let’s hope a lot worse for this band of ‘ban crazy’ merry socialists.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  10th September 2019

        Please don’t call it a National Reich.

        That was the term used of the Nazi regime and it is offensive in this context.

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  10th September 2019

        Google:

        ”Reich (/ˈraɪk/; German: [ˈʁaɪç] ( listen)) is a German word analogous in meaning to the English word “realm”. The terms Kaiserreich (literally “realm of an emperor”) and Königreich (literally “realm of a king”) are used in German to refer to empires and kingdoms respectively.”

        Arise Lord Simon. Leader of the National Realm. Let Wagner’s ‘ Realm Of The Righteous’ fill the National spirit and ether for the sake of farmers, used car prices, transport, business confidence, political truth, education, business plan viabilities and the future of our young folk.

        Not hard to see what is offensive in this context.

        Reply
        • I am fully aware of what the word means in German, thank you. I learned German.I don’t need a lesson on it from you.

          But you must be aware, if you know anything about history, that Reich was used by Hitler and will be forever associated with that. To use it of the National Party is either offensive or ignorant.

          Fuehrer simply means leader, but only a fool would think that it was all right to use that nowadays, after Hitler’s use of it. Reich has similar overtones, and I can’t imagine that anyone from National would like to have it used of them.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  10th September 2019

            Wrong. Reich was used by the empire, by the Weimar republic and continued usage by the East German government. The parliament building in Berlin is still called the Reichstag even though it houses the Bundestag.
            As Germany had multiple state governments the Reich government was used to refer to the national government along as a prefix for national institutes..Reichsbank… Reichsbahn. Things change just as in NZ Dominion was once used extensively….. Dominion Museum Dominion paper and so on.Its now seen as old fashioned just as Reich has become

            Reply
          • Duker

             /  11th September 2019

            Learned German…?
            Did you pass any exams …..sort of suggests it was a filler at high school

            Reply
  2. Bad look for Ardern in terms of leadership – either the Labour party is not answerable to her & do as they please or she is actively leading a very dodgy party willing to put their own political interests before alleged victims of sexual assault.

    Her lack of leadership, backbone & inability (some would say pure laziness) in not being on top of detail coming back to bite her big time. For her to essentially claim that the Labour party is some sort of separate entity from her, the leader of Labour, is absurd as is her saying that she has only just learnt recently that some of the alleged offending was of a sexual nature. Her creditability is shot, her lies becoming more obvious & finally even the MSM are having to report this.

    Reply
    • It looks very bad for her; she seems to have no idea of what’s going on. The feebleness of the excuses destroys her credibility.

      With any luck, even her adorers will question her ability to be PM after this.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  10th September 2019

        Yeah right…we all know Key was destroyed by Revelations of his continued harassment of a waitress…that’s right he was just being jokey and that’s something blokes do so it was all OK…plus Bradbury was involved it making it public so that made it politically inspired…nothing like Bennett’s involvement with this women’s complaints…no siree

        Reply
  3. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  10th September 2019

    I’ve been following the reception you got when you broached this topic at The Standard yesterday.
    It is extraordinary the lengths folks will go to to try and control the message that another commenter makes.
    They seemed more intent on blaming you for mentioning this mess than discussing the ineptitude of Labour or the welfare of the complainants.

    Reply
    • The fact some of these young women, Labour/ left-wing thru-and-thru, felt the need to go to Paula Bennett of all people in frustration over the way Labour did/ didn’t deal with the issues should be a wake up call for people like those regulars at The Standard.

      Reply
  4. Kimbo

     /  10th September 2019

    How can you be trusted to run the country when you can’t even run your own office?!

    Irrespective of politics, the first requirement of any government is competence. Other than for a few weeks after the Christchurch mosque attacks when Ardern’s undoubted personal and communication qualities were to the fore, she is shaping up as even more inept than the third Labour Government once Bill Rowling took over from the late Norman Kirk. And she isn’t even opposed by a political dynamo like Rob Muldoon as poor Rowling was!

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  11th September 2019

      As one commentator said: all Jacinda had to do was pick up the phone and ask ‘what the hell is going on? Somebody give me answers now.’

      I’m wondering whether the party decided to ‘firewall’ Jacinda from these proceedings, or if Jacinda herself asked to be ‘firewalled.” If I’m right it shows how incompetent her staff and the party are. Someone should have told Jacinda this problem can’t be contained indefinitely, and she will need to own and front it, sooner rather than later.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  11th September 2019

      “How can you be trusted to run the country when you can’t even run your own office?!”
      For the 8 years of Key we all knew Eagleson was ‘running the office’
      Just one example was the VIP cars when Key changed his story many times (1st it was labours fault) eventually it was shown through OIA Key had signed it off. he could have asked ‘the office’ and been told that and told the public right when it was news.
      Many many other situations , the tail was leading the Donkey

      Reply
  5. Unravelling very quickly now for the Labour party and Ardern;

    *Newshub now have proof of the emails sent to the panel with attachments titled “sexual assault”. Then you have the guy talking with stuff who also mentioned sexual assault in an email to the panel as outlined by PG above – all those on the Labour panel saying no mention of any sexual assault are lying.
    *Ardern has told a big whopper as pointed out here: https://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/heather-du-plessis-allan-drive/opinion/heather-du-plessis-allan-we-must-question-jacinda-arderns-honesty-over-labour-sexual-assault-allegations/

    To believe Ardern only found out of a possible sexual assault yesterday morning is even beyond some of Trump’s most wildest claims.

    *Grant Robertson also up to his neck in it: “Newshub revealed in August Finance Minister Grant Robertson was aware of the investigation and some complaints, but he’s refusing to say how much he knew.”

    This is an attempted political cover-up of a second (or even third) case of serious accusations of sexual assault within Labour involving the very top brass of that party including the PM, Party President and Finance Minister.

    A real test of her halo. Where’s Hager when a real political scandal is happening?

    Reply
  6. Duker

     /  10th September 2019

    This was three response by PG to another harassemnt situation a few years back

    The effect of Key’s actions is in part of bullying but his explanation sounds reasonable, bullying wasn’t his intent, it was inadvertent. He was trying to be an ordinary person goofing around.

    It seems that it all OK if it was ‘inadvertant’ ( even though it was repeated)….especially if he was being blokey as guys do.

    Reply
  7. duperez

     /  11th September 2019

    A most interesting facet for me is that someone alleges a crime has been committed and calls anyone but the police because they know that sometimes the accused is not convicted.

    Many accused are not convicted across a range of charges. Get rid of many police people because they aren’t required?

    Reply
  8. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  12th September 2019

    Here’s Last night’s Checkpoint with Honey Heemi,one of the three Labour Party members who were on the investigation committee that heard directly from the complainants.

    She starts off all adamant that there was nothing of a sexual nature in any of the evidence presented by the complainants, but as the interview proceeds, you can hear her change her tune, as (I think it dawns on her that she has been part of a cover-up) she ends the interview by admitting she is having difficulty recalling exactly what was said…and names the Lawyer who was taking minutes of the meeting.(He wouldn’t talk to RNZ).

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2018712841/labour-president-resigns-over-assault-complaints-fiasco

    Reply

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