Ardern to party members: “do drop me a line”, but…

On Thursday Jacinda Ardern sent an email to Labour Party members.

Dear ……….

Firstly, my apologies that it’s taken a few days to get this message to you. I know many of you will have seen media coverage around serious allegations involving Labour Party members. You may have also seen that Nigel Haworth has resigned as President of the Party. I wanted to share his statement with you.

I also wanted to acknowledge that while the Party has sought to act with the best of intentions, we also need to be an organisation that admits when mistakes have been made. It disappoints me, and I know others, that we will not have met the expectations we have set ourselves. We know we must do better.

I will continue to provide updates on the steps we’re taking, but in the meantime, support is available. If you wish to talk to someone specifically about the allegations that have been raised in the media, please contact our General Secretary Andre Anderson at [email address].

Otherwise, if you have questions or want to share any feedback, do drop me a line at [email address].

Until then, we’ll keep working on being better.

Thank-you

Jacinda Ardern

This is  personalised email, and suggests that Ardern is available for direct contact. But Prime Ministers are sent a lot of letters and emails and she can’t be expected to deal with all of them personally and promptly.

As this shows from Tova O’Brien at Newshub: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was sent email by alleged sexual assault victim

The Prime Minister says she is not in direct contact with any of the complainants in the Labour sexual assault and bullying investigation.

But Newshub was copied into an email on Thursday night, which was – sent directly to Jacinda Ardern – from someone who says they told Labour they were assaulted by the staffer who resigned yesterday.

The Prime Minister was asked if on Friday afternoon if she’d had any feedback or any response from the complainants.

“Anything, any response – generally obviously I’m not direct contact,” she told reporters in Christchurch.

But on Thursday night – there was direct contact to the Prime Minister’s inbox.

Copied in were the deputy Labour leader, Paula Bennett, another journalist and Newshub.

The email began “Dear Jacinda, I am one of the women who was assaulted….”

But Ardern said she’s not expecting any contact from complainants yet.

Ardern told the media on Friday her view and focus was getting the process right for the complainants.

Part of that process was making herself available for what looked like direct contact.

That may be the case – but if you invite feedback from complainants, checking emails, responding to them and acknowledging that contact seems key to getting the process right.

Ardern has established reputation for being very good at empathetic communications.

But she has also been growing a record of not delivering on her promises.

I don’t expect the Prime Minister to be able to respond to all personal emails immediately. She will have staff checking her inboxes, and passing on to Ardern what is important.

Passing on emails from complainants should be at the top of the priority list right now.

Ardern needs to be seen to be delivering on her promise as being an empathetic and approachable PM.

 

Ardern didn’t refute all of Bennett’s claims

Jacinda Ardern sounded like she refuted claims made by Paula Bennett in Parliament on Wednesday, but she only refuted “some of those allegations” – which of course could mean that some of what Bennett said was true or close to the mark.

Stuff ran an inaccurate headline: PM Jacinda Ardern ‘absolutely refutes’ National’s claims

That’s incorrect.

And the article reinforced the misrepresentation of Ardern’s words.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is adamant she was never told about allegations of sexual assault until Monday and “absolutely refuted” claims made by the Opposition that her senior staff and Finance Minister Grant Robertson knew months ago.

National Deputy Leader Paula Bennett claimed in Parliament that Robertson and Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Munro, chief press secretary Andrew Campbell and director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations of a sexual assault by a Labour Party staffer – and therefore could not believe that Ardern had not been told.

But:

When asked about the claims, Ardern said: “Some of those allegations that I’ve heard I just absolutely refute”.

She only refuted “some of those allegations” and wasn’t specific which ones. That leaves open the possibility –  that some or most of Bennett’s allegations were correct.

And she has refused to refute or challenge or deny specific questions.

NZ Herald: Labour staffer at centre of sexual assault allegations resigns

Some of the complainants were also angered that he had been present a party events, though Finance Minister Grant Robertson has said that people’s safety had always been given the highest priority.

The staffer’s resignation is likely to be welcomed to the complainants, who said that Haworth’s resignation was a step forward but the issue of safety remained.

“We must also not forget that there is still a person facing these serious allegations in the Party, and we need to take immediate action to ensure that no more people can be harmed,” a representative of the complainants said following Haworth’s resignation.

Earlier today, Ardern would not be drawn on whether Finance Minister Grant Robertson had talked to her about sexual assault claims.

Robertson has also refused to say when he was told about sexual assault claims.

I would expect that if Robertson wasn’t told about the sexual assault claims both Robertson and Ardern would have made that clear.

NZ City: Grant Robertson says he sought assurances from the Labour Party after concerns were raised with him

But the Finance Minister won’t say whether those were sexual assault allegations against a staffer.

National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett claims Robertson – and three of the Prime Minister’s senior staff – had known about those for some time.

Robertson says he checked that issues were dealt with appropriately – but won’t confirm or deny Bennett’s claims.

Newstalk ZB: National: PM’s senior staff knew about sexual assault complaints for months

Bennett said the complainants claimed that Grant Robertson knew about the sexual assault claim and had “deep alliances” to the Labour staffer.

Robertson has not commented on what he knew, saying he wanted to respect the privacy of the complainants.

“I’m comfortable with what I’ve done in this process,” he told reporters today.

“There is a process underway with a QC where the voices of these people need to be heard. I have to respect that process.”

This has little if anything to do with respecting privacy and respecting a process being run by the Labour Party (it is not a judicial inquiry). It sounds like an excuse not to front up and be open and honest.

Back to something from the NZH article: “Grant Robertson has said that people’s safety had always been given the highest priority.”

Why would ‘the people’s safety” been given “the highest priority” at party events attended by the accused staffer and by complainants, unless it was known the staffer was facing serious allegations?

Andrea Vance:  How to make the Labour abuse scandal worse

It has been claimed that concerns were raised with Finance Minister Grant Robertson, by one of the complainants, at an event on June 30. He has not responded to questions on this.

By July 12, the complainants had lost patience, decided to go public and sent an anonymous email to several media outlets.

Just over 10 days later, general secretary Andre Anderson wrote to the complainants.

“The email to the media has had the unfortunate effect of increasing the number of people who know something about these matters, which is undermining confidentiality.  I think it would be reasonable for you to assume that the content of the email has been circulated to a number of people,” he wrote.

“I’m aware that at least one of you has been approached by one or more MPs.  But they may only know one of you and the content of the email, rather than all of you.”

He then listed “the people who I either know are aware or I’ve been told are aware”. This included Robertson, though Anderson wrote: “I don’t know how much Grant was told.”

He says that he, or Haworth, knew the following people had been told: Ardern; her former chief of staff Mike Munro; new chief of staff Raj Nahna​; chief press secretary Andrew Campbell;  and the party’s solicitor Hayden Wilson. “These people only know the basics, including [the man’s] identity, but we haven’t told them who you are,” Anderson wrote.

He then says the man, or a member of his family, had told him four other people knew. These included the man’s lawyer Geoff Davenport and E tū senior national industrial officer Paul Tolich, who also sits on the NZ Council. Wellington city councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, and Beth Houston, who works for Cabinet minister Phil Twyford were also listed – both are on the council. “I don’t know the extent of their knowledge,” Anderson said.

MPs Kiritapu Allen and Paul Eagle are also mentioned: “I don’t know the extent of their knowledge,” Anderson said. Eagle has since denied he was in the loop.

The first news reports began to appear in early August, and almost all refer to bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. On August 6, Ardern spoke to reporters at Parliament and said the party would begin a review.

When asked if Labour had a culture problem, she said she couldn’t ignore the fact that complaints had been made.

Ardern has maintained she did not know complaints of serious sexual assault were reported to the party until this week.

“Monday was the first time that I saw details that a complainant had stated that they’d been sexually assaulted and that they’d taken a complaint to the Labour Party. That was the first time,” Ardern said at a press conference on Thursday.

She said when media reports first surfaced, five weeks ago, she “sought assurances” from the party and was told “no complainant had come to them and claimed to them they’d been sexually assaulted”.

She seems to have changed her language now from whether she knew there were sexual allegations to claiming she was told “no complainant had come to them and claimed to them they’d been sexually assaulted”. That leaves a lot of possibilities not refuted or denied.

Ardern still appears to have a problem here, as does Robertson.

Staffer resigns, Labour warned two years ago about insidious culture

The Labour staffer who has been the focus of a lot of attention regarding allegations of bullying, assault and sexual assault has resigned from his job in Parliament. His lawyer put out this statement:

“I have enjoyed my time working at Parliament, but today have made the very difficult decision to resign because of the stress of the situation, and my wish not to be a distraction to the work of the Government”.

“I adamantly refute the serious allegations made against me. I co-operated fully with the initial inquiry. I am co-operating fully with the Dew inquiry that is now underway, and will continue to do so, having been assured that this process will be fair to all parties.”

There’s some careful language here, in particular “I adamantly refute the serious allegations made against me”. He hasn’t refuted all allegations, just serious ones. From what has been reported some bullying, abuse and an attempted assault at least were in front of witnesses so could be hard to argue against. The most serious allegation, of sexual assault, was in private with just him and the complainant present. He is likely to be trying to protect himself from possible legal action, and  in those situations the defence often tries to downplay the seriousness of what happened. It’s common to claim ‘consensual’, and that can be a dispute over different perceptions.

His resignation was inevitable. He had become a major political liability for Labour and Jacinda Ardern. ‘Presumed innocent until proven guilty’ is a legal tenet but doesn’t apply so much in politics.

This is likely to defuse the situation, but won’t make it go away.

Meanwhile the story continues. Alison Mau:  Labour was warned it had a major problem before summer camp scandal

Before the summer camp scandal and the latest claims, Labour was warned it had a major problem.

The Labour Council was told two years ago that there was a troubling culture of bullying, sexual harassment within the party.

A witness to the latest Labour sexual harassment investigation told the council in a late-2017 written submission that instances of sexual assault happened in the party and reporting the behaviour was extremely difficult.

The witness, a 21-year-old woman, is also a Labour Party member. The submission came before the Labour summer camp scandal.

The written submission came in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the United States and made direct reference to that.

While there was obviously no way Labour could have known what was to come, the witness said the party was warned about its culture, and should have seen the summer camp incident as proof of the need to act.

“They could have said, we’re going to deal with the wider problem we know we have, because here is a specific instance that proves it.”

The woman, who Stuff has agreed not to name, sent the submission to then-General Secretary Andrew Kirton, Haworth and Assistant General Secretary Dianna Lacy.

The submission itself describes “a troubling culture of bullying, and of sexual harassment and assault” within the Labour Party.

“Instances of sexual harassment, and of sexual assault, happen in our party. They don’t often come to light, usually because the survivor leaves the party, but also because those survivors who stay have no official means of reporting such behaviour.

“This allows abusers to continue in the party.

“Having an unpublicised, intimidating process for reporting sexual assault and harassment in our party is costing us talented members. I believe our party needs to take steps to combat this culture, and to allow a mechanism for survivors of abuse and assault to come forward.”

Stuff understands the submission was tabled at the Labour Council in November 2017.

Stuff understands it was then passed to a smaller group of high-level members of the Labour Council.

The submission’s author was later asked to give evidence to a three-person panel about her experiences with the man accused of harassing up to 12 people. The man worked for Parliamentary Service in the office of the Labour leader.

Despite repeated approaches for comment, Haworth and Lacy did not respond. Kirton declined to comment and referred questions to Labour.

After the party was warned there was the assaults at the Young Labour summer camp in early 2018, and the handling of that was badly botched.

And now it is well known (and admitted by Ardern) that the handling of multiple complaints was also badly handled, and a QC has been called in to investigate.

It is apparent that Labour has nasty entrenched culture of abuse of power, abuse and assault, both male versus female and male versus male – one man who challenged the behaviour of the staffer says he was assaulted for doing this.

This is also a wider problem in New Zealand society. The National Party had it’s own embarrassing revelations last year involving Jami-Lee Ross. Law firms have been under the spotlight.

And it is apparent from diversions and excuse making in social media, including here at Your NZ, and it has been rife at The Standard this week, that the problems still exist. Those who make excuses, point their fingers elsewhere, and attack those who publicise bad behaviour, are a part of the problem. They support and enable abusive behaviour and assaults. At it’s worst it is ‘rape culture’ and tacit support of violence.

It is obvious that Labour has a lot of work to do to clean up their party. And so do other parties and organisations.

Bullying and violence and sexual violence are huge problems in our society. It is incumbent on all of us to speak up and to stand up against it. It won’t be a quick or easy thing to sort out, but we must do much better in addressing it.

Ardern, Robertson in precarious positions

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the mishandling of bullying and sexual assault allegations, but pressure continues to build on Jacinda Ardern and the spotlight is now also shining on Grant Robertson.

In his brief resignation statement Haworth didn’t take any responsibility for his mishandling of two serious issues (the summer camp assaults and the staffer allegations, and there was no apology either.

Ardern did apologise in her statement and in standup interviews. From Jacinda Ardern accepts Labour Party President resignation:

“In the last 48 hours I have read incredibly distressing reports of an alleged sexual assault involving members of the Labour Party,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“This morning I was provided some of the correspondence from complainants written to the party several months ago. It confirms that the allegations made were extremely serious, that the process caused complainants additional distress, and that ultimately, in my view, the party was never equipped to appropriately deal with the issue.

“I discussed the correspondence with the Labour Party President this morning. Whilst he stands by the statements he has made on this matter I believe mistakes were made.

“Raising an allegation of sexual assault is an incredibly difficult thing to do; for additional distress to be caused through the way those allegations are handled is incredibly upsetting. On behalf of the Labour Party I apologise to the complainants for the way this matter has been dealt with.

But this must just be a beginning in properly dealing with this.

In question time in Parliament yesterday Paula Bennett had a short exchange with Ardern, which concluded with this question and answer:

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her previous statements that victims should go to one of their line managers and that no senior people in her office had received a complaint?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At the time that I made the statement, yes.

That seems to have been a setup that could be a problem for Ardern. Bennett seems to have used a common trap

Shortly after in a speech in General Debate Bennett said:

I have been told by the complainants that Jacinda Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Monroe knew about the allegations, her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, knew about the allegations, and the director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations. I have been told by two victims who work in Parliament that they went to Rob Salmond around Christmas time and made a complaint about the alleged perpetrator.

The Prime Minister has constantly said her office did not receive complaints and, in fact, encouraged the victims to speak to their line managers. They did. They have told me they went to Rob Salmond and nothing was done, and we are expected to believe that none of these men in her own office told the Prime Minister about the allegations—all of this in the aftermath of the Labour summer camp scandal, when the Prime Minister made it very clear she expected to have been told.

And are we really expected to believe that she didn’t know that her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, embarked on a witch-hunt to try and find out who in the Beehive was talking to the media about the allegations? The complainants certainly felt hunted and scared that he was trying to shut them up and stop them from talking to the media—classic bullying of victims, and hardly a victim-led response.

Ardern doesn’t usually attend Parliament on Thursdays but may be advised to amend her answer, or claim she misinterpreted the question. Otherwise this is likely to come up next week in Parliament.

And Ardern has more questions to answer about what she knew, and when.

Newsroom: More answers needed as Labour president departs

This is far from the end of the matter, however. Using the protection of parliamentary privilege, Bennett named several senior members of Ardern’s office who she says knew about the nature of the allegations as far back as last Christmas.

We do not yet know whether that is true (a spokeswoman for Ardern said her office had no comment to make) but it is clear that the review of Labour’s processes will almost certainly uncover a few more skeletons.

Some potential findings – that some of Ardern’s staff did know but deliberately kept her out of the loop in the interests of plausible deniability, or that Ardern did know and has been economical with the truth – would almost certainly lead to more resignations.

Even if Ardern did not know that sexual assault claims had been made, some may question why she did not more forcefully ask her party to look back over its records, given the repeated claims made by complainants through the media.

And Bennett also named Grant Robertson as complicit.

A victim has told me that the alleged perpetrator has deep alliances to Grant Robertson, that he was involved in his campaign for the Labour Party leadership, and that Grant Robertson has known the seriousness of these allegations. It is unbelievable that he hasn’t discussed this with his close friend and his leader.

Robertson is not answering questions, claiming he needs to wait for the outcome of the QC inquiry that hasn’t begun yet. Burying difficult issues in an inquiry is a well worn political tactic, but I think in this case it could be more damaging rather than burying. Things will keep coming out. And they are today.

Andrea Vance (Stuff): Labour Party president Nigel Haworth has resigned – but it’s not over

Labour will be hoping party president Nigel Haworth’s exit will cauterise the wounds. It’s political management 101: feed the media a scalp and they will move on.

But it is not yet time to draw a line under the bullying, intimidation and assault allegations that currently shame the party. There are too many unanswered questions.

Ardern and the party must now be upfront about how much they knew about these allegations, and exactly when.

It’s important for a few reasons. Firstly, so that the public can be sure that senior figures did not shield this staffer.

His identity cannot be disclosed, but he held positions of influence within the party and then through his job, with the Labour Leader’s Office at Parliament.

There are other connections – which cannot be detailed for legal reasons – but mean he held more sway than an average volunteer or apparatchik.

It is one of the reasons why the complainants were so reluctant to come forward with their stories in the first place.

One of them told Stuff:  “Abuse only happens in a vacuum, it thrives in silence. And that’s the case here. For years he was able to bully and intimidate women and have relationships with women where he was abusive.

“That was reasonably well known and yet he was still given opportunities within the party. Despite his reputation, he kept on going up the ladder.”

The party needs to explain how that perception was allowed to take root among those young people.

We need to know precisely when senior ministers – including Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern (or their staff, because they are one in the same) were informed of the allegations. And what they did about it.

Did Ardern ever ask for a copy of Labour’s internal investigation, or the subsequent review? Why not?

Ardern says she didn’t know the allegations were sexual until this week. That’s hard to swallow.

An email sent to media outlets and others on July 12 very explicitly references allegations of extreme sexual violence. The first media reporting of the scandal, on August 5, details that some of the complaints were of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Is she saying that she wasn’t aware of these?

For the same reasons, it’s hard to accept that senior figures within the Labour party machinery had no inkling of concern about this man’s behaviour. The complainants say they flagged it with a number of senior figures going back as far as 2017 (one woman counted that she had raised concerns on eight separate occasions).

The branch that he was involved with is one of the party’s more influential, and its members certainly hold more access and sway with MPs and officials than others.

Was the party really blind to these allegations?

And then there is the shambolic internal investigation. Haworth has carried the can, but the decisions were not his alone.

The party’s ruling council decided the process. Why did they believe an internal inquiry, with no expert guidance, was appropriate?

Did the investigation panel ignore the more serious allegations of sexual assault, or not take them seriously?

Who decided the Labour staffer could bring his lawyer, when the complainants were denied legal representation?

And why were the complainants denied the right to see the final report? They have never had an explanation as to why their stories weren’t believed.

Ardern said on Wednesday: “It is my job to make that right.”

She and the party can start by being absolutely transparent with the public about these shocking events. Otherwise, abuse continues to thrive in silence.

Ardern has a big and urgent job to be seen to make this right. And I don’t think Robertson can keep hiding his involvement behind the next inquiry.

Paula Bennett speech on PM’s office involvement in assault claims

GENERAL DEBATE

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business.

The Prime Minister says she did not know there were sexual assault allegations against one of her staff members until Monday. I could go through the various media reports since 5 August and my own representation since being contacted by victims to show the inconsistencies in this, but they have already been well traversed in the last 24 hours.

Back in 2016, Jacinda Ardern wrote an op-ed about the scandal surrounding the Chiefs rugby team. She said that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”

The resignation today of Nigel Haworth cannot be, in the Prime Minister’s words, “the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away.” Yes, Mr Haworth needed to go, and it should have happened weeks ago, but what is also known is that the Prime Minister’s own senior staff and a senior Minister have known the seriousness of the allegations but have not acted.

The complainants were members of the Labour Party. They genuinely believed that the party would listen to their complaints and deal with the alleged offender appropriately, but nothing happened. It clearly has taken an incredible sense of frustration, disappointment, and disillusion for these people to come to me, a National Party MP, to try and see their complaints addressed.

These are serious allegations. The Prime Minister cannot keep her head in the sand and pretend like it is happening somewhere far, far away. It is happening in her own office, in her own organisation. She is the leader of the Labour Party. The alleged perpetrator works in her leader’s office—he works for her.

Less than a year ago, the Prime Minister was in New York at the UN, trumpeting “Me too should be we too.” Well, who knew that that meant her own office was following the path well trod by all those companies who drew a curtain over sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.

I have been told by the complainants that Jacinda Ardern’s former chief of staff Mike Monroe knew about the allegations, her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, knew about the allegations, and the director of her leader’s office, Rob Salmond, knew about the allegations. I have been told by two victims who work in Parliament that they went to Rob Salmond around Christmas time and made a complaint about the alleged perpetrator.

The Prime Minister has constantly said her office did not receive complaints and, in fact, encouraged the victims to speak to their line managers. They did. They have told me they went to Rob Salmond and nothing was done, and we are expected to believe that none of these men in her own office told the Prime Minister about the allegations—all of this in the aftermath of the Labour summer camp scandal, when the Prime Minister made it very clear she expected to have been told. And are we really expected to believe that she didn’t know that her chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, embarked on a witch-hunt to try and find out who in the Beehive was talking to the media about the allegations? The complainants certainly felt hunted and scared that he was trying to shut them up and stop them from talking to the media—classic bullying of victims, and hardly a victim-led response.

A victim has told me that the alleged perpetrator has deep alliances to Grant Robertson, that he was involved in his campaign for the Labour Party leadership, and that Grant Robertson has known the seriousness of these allegations. It is unbelievable that he hasn’t discussed this with his close friend and his leader.

This all smacks of a cover-up. This goes straight to the top: to the Prime Minister, to senior Cabinet Ministers, and—

SPEAKER: Order! The member’s time has expired.

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/document/HansS_20190911_053250000/bennett-paula-mallard-trevor


Possible of note is in Question time just before this Bennett briefly questioned Ardern.

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the statement made by Jacinda Ardern in 2016 about the Chiefs rugby scandal that a resignation is not enough: “It’s the PR quick fix—usher the source of the controversy away. But that solves nothing. … After all, apologies followed by silence changes nothing, and change is what we need.”?

SPEAKER: No. That question does not relate to a statement of the Prime Minister.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all of our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims, and that respond to those situations.”, and how does that correlate with a situation where the victims were barred from parts of the parliamentary complex?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that “we need to make sure that we have environments in all our workplaces that meet the expectations of alleged victims,”; and, if so, how does that correlate that senior male staffers in her office have known about these extremely serious allegations since at least the beginning of the year and none of these men have brought it to her attention?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, to answer the first part of the question, yes.

Hon Paula Bennett: Will she be revising her statement made to the UN less than a year ago that “#MeToo must become we too. We are all in this together.”, in light of her own office’s failure to deal with sexual assault allegations involving one of her staff members?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her previous statements that victims should go to one of their line managers and that no senior people in her office had received a complaint?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At the time that I made the statement, yes.

If Ardern “made the statement” after two complainants went to a line manger (Salmond) around Christmas time she could have a probem.

Credibility of Ardern, Haworth and Labour increasingly shaky over sexual assault claims

A follow up up on yesterday’s post Labour’s ongoing bungling of dealing with assaults within the party – the reputation of the Labour Party and the credibility of the party president Nigel, and increasingly the leader Jacinda Ardern, are on the line as the bullying and sexual assault claims grow in strength as more people and information comes out in the media.

The Spinoff: Timeline: Everything we know about the Labour staffer misconduct inquiry

Jacinda Ardern has declared herself “deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated” over the allegations levelled at a Labour staffer as well as the party investigation into the man, who remains employed by the Labour leader’s office and denies wrongdoing.

The party president says he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”.

The prime minister says she had been assured that no complainant alleged sexual assault or violence. She says the first she learned of the nature of the allegations that Sarah (a pseudonym) insists she raised repeatedly with the Labour Party, was upon reading the Spinoff’s investigation published on Monday.

A crucial question is whether the Labour Party’s position, that it was not informed of the allegations, is tenable. Just as important is whether its process – for example in repeatedly failing to meet complainants’ requests to review the summaries of their oral evidence – is defensible.

They then detail “an incomplete chronology” based on public statements and numerous documents provided to The Spinoff. This collates much of what has been made known already, but includes corroboration of the authenticity of an Open Letter to Ardern:

An “open letter to the prime minister” is circulated within the party by “Me Too Labour”, an unnamed “group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations” surrounding the staffer. It makes a series of demands including the resignation of Haworth. The letter, which The Spinoff has verified originates from party members, had by lunchtime attracted more than 100 signatures.

From the open letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

We are a group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations of repeated sexual assaults, harassment and predatory behaviour of one of your staff, who is a member of the Labour Party, as detailed in these stories:

https://thespinoff.co.nz/unsponsored/09-09-2019/a-labour-volunteer-alleged-violent-sexual-assault-by-a-senior-staffer-this-is-her-story/?fbclid=IwAR2w3BYBKCccR_hDGB-qNqohdFcXnS157NsZLbBj1yVrjl9M6mBscbQjuRo

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/115592299/young-labour-abuse-victims-barred-from-parliament-offices

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/08/exclusive-labour-forced-to-review-investigation-into-bullying-sexual-assault-allegations-against-staffer.html

Some of us are the survivors. Others are their friends and supporters. All of us have watched in horror as this story has unfolded, as the survivors have been repeatedly re-traumatised, and as the Labour Party has run a shambles of a process that has enabled an alleged attacker and shut out his survivors. This issue has been discussed for too long in secret meetings and private conversations, and it is our hope that by drawing attention to it in the light of day we will get the action that the survivors deserve. We are sending this letter to the Labour Party caucus, the entirety of the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party, and to all Labour Party LECs.

What has been outlined in the stories is nothing short of sexual assault. What has been outlined as the party’s process in addressing this assault is nothing short of enabling.

It has been claimed that this letter is a ‘false flag’, part of a conspiracy and attempts have been made to discredit it at The Standard.

Stuff: Complaints about Labour Party staffer taken to his employer

Two of the complainants in an investigation into assault, bullying and harassment by a Labour Party staffer have taken their concerns directly to the man’s employer.

The man, who Stuff cannot name for legal reasons, works in the Labour Leader’s Office, but is a public servant employed by Parliamentary Service.

A 19-year-old woman, who alleges sexual assault, and a young man, who has accused the staffer of throwing a punch at him, wrote to Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero on Tuesday.

But Gonzelez-Montero says his hands are tied because the accusations do not relate to the man’s employment. Neither of the complainants work at Parliament.

It’s hard to understand why this can be deemed not an employment matter.

The man has not been stood down. But he agreed to work from home after allegations surfaced about his conduct in early August.

The issue has a direct effect on the man’s employment.

It is also hard to understand why Ardern is allowing this man to continue to work for her office in the current situation. It could drag her and her Government down.

HDPA (Newstalk ZB): We must question PM’s honesty over Labour sexual assault allegations:

This is what we want to ask her: When did she know that the allegations against a staffer in her office were of an alleged sex crime?

She told media yesterday: ”I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual.”

She told RNZ this morning that she found out yesterday.

“The first I’ve seen the complaints of that nature was when I read then.” Asked when that was, she said “When I saw them in the Spinoff.”

That is very hard to believe. This has been reported in the media for the last five weeks.

If you believe that yesterday was the first the Prime Minister heard of this, then you must believe that the Prime Minister of this country does not watch, read or listen to the news reported in this country.

That she for the last five weeks has missed every bulletin, newspaper and programme that mentioned the fact this guy is alleged to have committed a sexual crime.

Like this on Newshub: “The Labour Party has been forced to review its own investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer.”

Or this: “Two more of the seven people who laid complaints about bullying, sexual harassment and assault by a Labour staffer have told Newshub about their experience of the department’s internal investigation.”

You have to also believe that the Prime Minister didn’t ask what allegation was so serious that a staffer in her office stopped coming to work five weeks ago.

You also have to square it with this comment she made yesterday in her press conference”:

“A month ago I visited New Zealand [Labour Party] Council. Very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour of 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.”

Why would she say to the Labour Party council that they were not the right people to investigate an alleged sex crime, if she didn’t know the allegations were of a sex crime?

Because she did. She did know.

On the 6th of August, one day after the story broke in the media, Mike Hosking raised it with her right here on this station.

He asked her: “How many people have quit your party as a result of this investigation into this bloke who may or may not have sexual assaulted someone?”

Her response was: “I’m going to be very careful answering that question Mike because this is an inquiry and work is still underway and it is still a party matter.”

Exactly when the Prime Minister knew is important for a bunch of reasons.

Did she fail in her duty of care to staffers and volunteers?  Was this supposed to be covered up? But mostly it’s important because this is now about her integrity

It’s becoming increasingly hard to believe her version of events, and possibly this is the first time that we’ve had reason to question Jacinda Ardern’s honesty.

This is not just Ardern’s honesty and credibility at stake. Labour’s chances in the next election may be severely compromised by this.

It has been claimed that the man facing the allegations is seen by Labour as an important part of their campaign team. He may be more toxic than helpful. It’s hard to understand why Ardern can’t see this. Perhaps she is (or has been)too close to the accused person.

Grant Robertson also seems to be involved in this, and may have been trying to distance Ardern from the growing issue.

Newshub: Emails show Labour was sent details of sexual assault allegations against party staffer

Newshub has obtained emails that show Labour was sent details six months ago of sexual assault allegations against a party staffer.

The party continues to deny it knew the claims against the man included sexual assault, but on Tuesday the Prime Minister said the party President Nigel Haworth has to go if it’s proven he mishandled the allegations.

Newshub has been forwarded an email sent by a complainant to one the members of the Labour Party investigating panel on the day of her interview.

She wanted to be able to read off a timeline and testimony. She asked if someone could print the document before her interview which was taking place an hour later.

A document “to print sexual assault experience” was attached.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was shown the document on Tuesday morning.

She told Newshub, “You’ll understand why we will want to take away this and look at it directly.”

Labour agrees the email was sent but claims there were no documents attached. The complainant says all three members of the investigating panel were given a printed copy.

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.

“I am not going to comment any further than what I have on that because I will be undermining the privacy,” he told Newshub.

In an interview on RNZ’s Checkpoint yesterday a man who claims to be the victim of an attempted physical assault and a physical assault indicated the accused man had family connections to the Labour Party.

Protecting him looks increasingly untenable.


And more just posted at The Spinoff: Fresh evidence emerges confirming Labour was told of sexual assault allegations on June 11

The woman who alleges sexual assault by a man currently employed by the Labour Leader’s office has expressed dismay at the response of the Labour Party president, Nigel Howarth, who yesterday issued a public statement doubling down on his position that sexual assault allegations contained in investigation published by The Spinoff were never made known to anyone involved in the Labour inquiry.

“He was like a fatherly figure to these six women, and he’s let us down,” she told The Spinoff.

Her comments come as a second email has newly emerged which shows Sarah, the pseudonym by which she is described in The Spinoff’s story, sending a written account of sexual abuse allegations to the Labour Party.

In the email, dated June 11 and sent to the three members of the investigation panel, she directs them to an attached document which contains clear reference to her allegation of being sexually assaulted by the man.

This is on top of another email, sent on the morning of her interview to the chair of the panel, requesting that attached documents be printed. He asked her to send it on to the party official who was overseeing access to Labour headquarters, which she did. According to Sarah four copies of those documents were printed and provided to the panel.

The Labour Party has told The Spinoff that no attachments were received by the investigation chair, and that no one involved in the investigation was aware that any of the people appearing before them was alleging sexual assault.

Sarah told The Spinoff yesterday she was “disappointed” by what she regarded as a “cowardly” statements on the part of the Labour Party. She maintained that her traumatic experience, as detailed Monday on The Spinoff, was first described to Labour at a meeting in October 2018 with Nigel Haworth and general secretary Dianna Lacy. She said this was reiterated to the investigating sub-committee in March 2019.

“We’ve had so many email exchanges that talk about the nature of the investigation,” she said. ““I’m incredibly saddened … Standing by a process you know is flawed, a process you know retraumatised and put further young women at risk is cowardly.”

 

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

Nottingham conviction and sentence appeal – judgment

The Court of Appeal judgment of Dermot Nottingham’s unsuccessful appeals against conviction and sentence (and the successful Crown appeal calling for a harsher sentence) is now online – NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZCA 344 [30 July 2019].

The judgment found that there was strong evidence linking Nottingham with harassing and defamatory posts on the Lauda Finem website – I will cover this in more detail in another post.

Nottingham’s argument in his defence were in part self-defeating. He claimed:

  • Posts on an overseas based blog (Lauda Finem) were not covered by New Zealand law.
  • There was no evidence that he was responsible for the posts.
  • The posts were truthful so could not be deemed to be harassment or breaches of suppression.
  • The five people he was found guilty of harassing “started it” and deserved to be attacked.

The trial jury, the trial judge and the three Court of Appeal judges disagreed with him on all these claims.

His sentence was increased to 31 months in prison, but as he had already served three and a half months home detention this still qualified him for a home detention sentence. While the offences were judged to be serious he was largely spared time in prison due to serious health problems. He was re-sentenced to a further 12 months home detention (including a ban on using the internet), 100 hours commununity service, plus a further six month ban on using the internet after home detention finishes.

He was originally charged in 2015 and went to trial last year after a number of delays.

Following a five-week jury trial before Judge Down, Mr Nottingham was convicted in May 2018 of five charges of criminal harassment and two charges of publishing information in breach of a suppression order. He was subsequently
sentenced by the Judge to 12 months’ home detention and 100 hours of community work. He appeals both his conviction and sentence. The Solicitor-General also appeals the sentence, on the grounds of manifest inadequacy and error in principle.

The suppression charges:

In his summing-up, Judge Down directed that publication of the brothers’ names had occurred in New Zealand in breach of the suppression order. The key issues for the jury were, therefore, whether Mr Nottingham was the publisher or a party to the publication, and whether he had done so knowingly or recklessly in breach of the suppression order

The criminal harassment charges:

In the course of investigating the breaches of name suppression, the police identified a number of LF articles which they considered amounted to criminal harassment. Charges were laid in respect of five complainants, all of whom have been granted permanent name suppression and who we will refer to as T, C, H, B and M. The common denominator between them all was that they had at some stage crossed Mr Nottingham’s path in circumstances he took issue with.

In respect of each complainant, articles appeared on the LF website containing material the Crown alleged was “offensive” in terms of the Harassment Act 1997.

The articles included names, photographs and other personal details indicating extensive background research on each of the targets. It was alleged that some of the photographs had been obtained by Mr Nottingham or by one of his associates at Mr Nottingham’s direction. It was common for Mr Nottingham to ensure that articles were drawn to his complainants’ attention by providing them with the electronic links. The Crown also alleged various other acts of harassment — including “following” and in one case initiating a private prosecution.

At the same time he was being prosecuted for those offences Nottingham and associates continued act in a similar manner, as the many ongoing attack posts on LF show. He also unsuccessfully attempted four other private prosecutions, including one against myself. Two of these went to trial and were dismissed and described as vexatious.

As he attempted several times in my case he applied to adduce new evidence, usually a last minute stunt (the morning of hearings and in two cases during a hearing).

Mr Nottingham filed four affidavits, including one of 333 paragraphs by his brother, P R Nottingham. We assume the premise to be that they represent fresh or relevant new evidence.

We do not regard any of this material as meeting the test for admission in Lundy v R. It is neither fresh, nor (in most cases) relevant.

That sounds very familiar.

The breach of suppression order charges:

Mr Nottingham pursues two arguments:

(a) LF is overseas domiciled and “you cannot be a party to a crime that never occurred in an overseas jurisdiction”.

In his summing-up, the Judge directed that, as a matter of law, publication occurs where material is comprehended and downloaded and that accordingly there was publication in New Zealand irrespective of LF’s domicile. He said that this was a function of “Judge-made” law and that it was also a feature of s 7 of the Crimes Act 1961.

We identify no error in that direction. It did not involve any assumption of extra-territorial jurisdiction. It stated what we regard as a now uncontentious proposition: that a blog available to New Zealand internet users is regarded as published in New Zealand.

They make it clear that using an overseas based website (like WordPress) does not exempt you from New Zealand law if  it is directed at a New Zealand audience.

Physical location of the LF server was, in that context, irrelevant. What was required was proof either of direct publication (that Mr Nottingham was LF), indirect publication (that Mr Nottingham was a co-principal with LF, working directly with it to effect publication in New Zealand) or that he was a party to LF’s publication. That is exactly as the trial Judge put it to the jury, supported by an accurate description of the “party” requirements. Mr Krebs is correct that the question of whether Mr Nottingham “caused” the publication (in any of the legal senses relevant) was a matter of fact for the jury. No error of law was made by the trial Judge.

(b) The Crown failed to establish to the criminal standard that he was either the publisher of the material or a party to its publication.

The Crown advanced a circumstantial case. As Mr Nottingham reminded us, there was no “smoking gun” in the sense of an email attaching a final draft of the articles sent to LF. Nor was there any “electronic footprint” on any of the computers searched by the police which demonstrated that the article, as published, had originated from Mr Nottingham.

…Turning then to the circumstantial evidence relied on by the Crown to establish publication, we agree with Ms Brook that it was very strong, if not overwhelming.

I will cover this more detail in the next post,

We are not therefore satisfied that the verdicts on the breach of suppression charges were unreasonable or that the convictions resulted from a miscarriage of justice.

In Nottingham’s hapless attempt at prosecuting me (and three others) he claimed that we had in some convoluted way enabled people to find their way to suppression breach posts on LF – posts that he has been found guilty of posting.

Conviction appeal — the criminal harassment charges

Again, both the Crown and Mr Krebs submit that the appropriate approach is to treat Mr Nottingham’s appeal as essentially a challenge to the reasonableness of the jury verdicts. We agree, although noting that the main focus of Mr Nottingham’s second set of written submissions (filed on the morning of the appeal hearing), and of his oral submissions, was on the proposition that he ought not to have been convicted because the statements made in the articles (whether by him or not) were true or, alternatively, opinions based in truth.

…Identity (in the sense of responsibility for the acts either as principal or party) was therefore in issue on all charges. Again, Mr Nottingham’s position (both at trial and on appeal) was that there was no evidence of information being communicated from computers under his control to the LF website. And again, the Crown case was (and is) the evidence identifying him as the “driving force” behind the harassment was, if not overwhelming, certainly very strong. We start with that issue, because of its relevance also to the breach of suppression convictions.

We do not consider it necessary to set out all of the circumstantial evidence relied on by the Crown to establish identity in respect of each of the harassment charges. We agree that the jury’s conclusion on the facts was one reasonably available to it. Indeed, we consider it almost inevitable.

In the case of T, Mr Nottingham sent her a link to the first article immediately after it was published and a draft, created two days before publication, was found on a computer to which he had access. In addition, images appearing in the other articles were found on the same computer.

In the case of C, word versions of all three articles were found on a computer to which Mr Nottingham had access together with images from the articles. Likewise, drafts of other unpublished articles were also found.

In the case of B, although no draft of the principal article (published on 24 April 2013) was identified, the draft of another “unpublished” article (prepared approximately a year later) was found, and this contained very similar references to the 2013 publication. For example, the published article interposed the description “belted” between the complainant’s first and last names, and the draft contained the phrase “Beat Me”. The published article described her as “a stupid troll”, the draft as a “dumb cow” and “complete fuckwit”.

In the case of H, a word version of the first article was found on one of the computers, together with photographic images which were included in the articles and a screen shot of H’s Facebook profile. Likewise, screenshots of images in the third article were identified, as was the draft of another unpublished article in a similar vein.

And in respect of M, a word version of the first article was found on a computer to which Mr Nottingham had access together with the image of H which appeared in the same article.

In addition to this specific evidence, there was also a body of general evidence establishing either that Mr Nottingham was LF, a co-principal of LF or was, at a minimum, a party to the publications.

Although much was made of the fact that others had access to the computers at Mr Nottingham’s Hillsborough residence, particularly his brothers Anthony and Phillip, there was ample evidence that Mr Nottingham had overall responsibility and control. For example, there was an email in which Anthony told Mr Nottingham to stop treating him “like one of your fucking employees”.

Funny. While the Nottinghams, and other associatess like Earle McKinney, Marc Spring and Cameron Slater, where all involved in various ways in various campaigns of attack and harassment, they didn’t always get along with each other. very well.

By a wide margin we conclude that on the issue of “identity”, Mr Nottingham fails to satisfy us that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable.

Nottingham has tried to claim or imply it wasn’t him, but if it was it didn’t matter anyway.

Mr Nottingham cast the prosecution as an attack on his unalienable rights of free speech and as having a “chilling effect” on his “legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights”. He said that truth is a complete answer to any allegation that material given to any person or placed on electronic media was offensive within the terms of the Harassment Act.

Except that as is made clear later while posts at LF may have been based on skerricks of truth they were substantially embellished and bolstered by false claims.

The trial judge is quoted:

It has been pointed out already that given the highly inflammatory and abusive language used to impart the truth in some of these Lauda Finem articles, the Crown says that claim of truth is something of a red herring. It is also fair to say that even truthful allegations can be made and repeated in ways that are intended to and do in fact harass.

You might remember [C] in cross-examination saying effectively that these things are not true (was her response) but, even if they were, it does not mean that they can be repeated and presented in this way, in a way that makes me feel harassed and frightened.

The Court of Appeal:

We do not consider the trial Judge to have erred in his approach to this issue. The jury was legitimately entitled to take into account truth or falsity in its assessment of offensiveness, but it was only one part of a composite of considerations relevant in that respect.

Much of what was published could at best be described as virulent opinion with only a tangential connection to anything arguably true. And in respect of many of the comments, we regard even that description as excessively generous.

As the Crown said in closing, the posts were littered with “hate-filled [invective]” and were strongly misogynistic.
T was, for example, described as a “useless fucktard” and “scum of scum of scum and then some scum”. It was said that she wanted an identified person dead and was operating “in a similar fashion to the manner in which the [Nazis] singled out the Jewish community”. In respect of C, her surname was predicated by the sobriquet “cumsac”. And it was said she needed to be “brought to justice before she commits very serious offending such as murder”.

M was described as a “bent ex-cop” with the suggestion he was “on the take” (allegations vehemently denied and never established).

I have seen Nottingham claim many things (in court documents) as truth and evidence that has not been backed up with any actual evidence.

Anyone who has read through posts on LF will recognise this style of attack that bears very little semblance to “truth”.

It was not unreasonable for the jury to identify such material as offensive.

Now the bit where Nottingham claims he was justified in doing what he also tried to claim he didn’t do.

We also note that the “lawful purpose” which Mr Nottingham asserted at trial was his ability to respond to actions by the complainants which he considered to be unlawful or unjust.

(H was alleged to have been complicit in her husband’s operation of a website Mr Nottingham considered to be fraudulent; M was alleged to havemisconducted himself in office in a way which resulted in financial loss to
Mr Nottingham; C had made a police complaint about an associate of Mr Nottingham’s he alleged to be false; T had made accusations he considered baseless and B had assisted H’s husband).

A similar point appears in his written submissions on appeal, where he refers to “the issue as to whether the complainants had contributed to their problems”, albeit in a paragraph which combines submissions in relation to both conviction and sentencing. In oral submissions he further urged on us the fact that “they started it”.

We note the inconsistency of that argument with his underlying proposition that there was inadequate proof he was either the publisher of the LF articles or a party thereto.

However, that aside, the proposition that “they deserved it” was self-evidently not a defence to the charges Mr Nottingham faced.

We are also satisfied that the jury’s verdict was not unreasonable in its implicit acceptance that the intention/knowledge requirements in s 8 of the Harassment Act were proven.

The Crown case was that anyone who discovered they were a target of LF would reasonably fear for, among other things, their mental wellbeing and that this was plainly intended by Mr Nottingham, or at least he knew that it was a likely result.

As previously stated, attacks along similar lines continued on LF at the same time that Nottingham was being prosecuted – and he was protected from public exposure with name suppression.

T’s concerns included to her physical wellbeing. This was because of photographs posted to the site from someone who had clearly been tracking her movements and because the phrase “two head shots to be sure”, had been inserted  between her first and last names in the 29 April 2013 article. Her fears were compounded by the fact that the article was forwarded to her with a link to a scene from the Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction” which showed a person being shot in the head.

Although Mr Nottingham suggested that this was a reference to T’s treatment of certain people, we agree with the Judge that “it is not unreasonable and should have been foreseeable that those statements would be read as a threat towards [T]”.

I had implied death threats directed at myself on LF and Twitter, but I suspect it more likely to be via associates.

Nottingham submitted that the trial judge:

… did not fairly sum up the competing evidence, effectively casting aside the evidence that established that [the complainants] were not telling the truth, when the prosecution was alleging defamation.

But:

In this case, we regard as compelling the following exchange between the Judge and Mr Nottingham which occurred in chambers immediately after the summing-up:

The Court: All right, now any matters arising?

Mr Nottingham: Sir, may I comment that that was a very fair summing up.

The Court: Thank you. I tried very hard to ensure that it was.

Mr Nottingham: It was.

A number of other complaints were dissected and overruled.

Accordingly, Mr Nottingham’s appeal against conviction is dismissed.

The sentence appeals

The sentence was premised on the following findings of fact which we agree were consistent with the jury’s verdicts:

(a) Mr Nottingham either was LF (in other words the leading mind of that blog) or he was so intimately related to it that it was proper to conclude that he provided information and draft articles to that blog knowing and intending that they would be published.

(b) Publication and other intimidating and harassing conduct was either carried out by Mr Nottingham himself or at his direction and he knew his conduct was likely to cause the individuals involved to fear for their safety or that of family members.

(c) Although Mr Nottingham may, at least initially, have reasonably believed he had legitimate grievances in respect of the complainants, he elected to pursue these, not by lawful and reasonable means, but by personal attacks on an “anything goes” basis.

The trial judge on the harassment charges…

…it went “without saying” that all of the offences were sufficiently serious to justify a starting point of imprisonment.

CoA:

In respect of the breach of non-publication orders, the Judge noted the Crown submission that the maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment be adopted as the start point. The Judge categorised these breaches as blatant and contemptuous and noted Mr Nottingham showed no remorse.

In respect of the combined total starting point of two years and four months’ imprisonment, he then gave a four-month discount to reflect what he described as Mr Nottingham’s “multi-faceted and complex” health problems, which in the Judge’s view meant that a sentence of imprisonment would be much harder for him than for an average middle-aged man in reasonable health. He identified this as the only mitigating factor resulting in a provisional end sentence of two years’ imprisonment. That required that the Judge give consideration to home detention which, consistent with authority, he recognised as having a general and specific deterrence value.

He said he regarded home detention as an appropriate and sufficient response.

The indicated months’ home detention sentence was then apportioned in the way we have previously indicated. Special conditions were imposed including that Mr Nottingham attend counselling or treatment programmes as directed by a probation officer and that he not use any electronic device capable of accessing the internet without prior approval from
a probation officer.

Again Nottingham seems to be speaking on behalf of whoever posted at LF:

Mr Nottingham said that the sentences should be commuted to time served (three and a half months home detention) and without the requirement for community work on the primary ground that the LF articles on which the harassment charges were based were “not designed to make anyone fear for their safety”.

How would he know what the design of the posts was if he wasn’t involved?

By contrast, the Crown submitted the sentence was manifestly inadequate and that nothing less than a custodial sentence is sufficient to capture the level of denunciation and deterrence required for what it says was an egregious breach of non-publication orders and malicious and misogynistic attacks on members of the public.

Ms Brook submitted that manifest inadequacy arises primarily from the wayin which the sentences were structured, and in particular, what she says was an excessive discount for totality. She submitted that the final sentence should have been in the region of three years five months’ imprisonment, made up of cumulative sentences, save that the sentences for the two breaches of the suppression order were properly imposed concurrently with each other and cumulatively on the sentences for criminal harassment.

…Ms Brook therefore submitted that the Judge’s sentence should be quashed and a new sentence imposed in the region of two years and 10 months’ imprisonment.

We accept Ms Brook’s submission that the offending against C and T justified a 12-month starting point for each.
The language used was particularly demeaning and offensive and the fact that a photograph was taken of T without her knowledge and subsequently published must have been calculated to add to her insecurity.

The offending against B, H and M was not as serious, although there were strongly misogynistic elements in the articles about B and H and the implication that M was corrupt was clearly a very damaging one given the nature of his employment.

We consider cumulative sentences of six months (in relation to the offending against B), five months (in relation to the offending against H) and five months (in relation to the offending against M) appropriate.

In respect of the breach of suppression offences, we agree with the Judge that they were sufficiently interconnected and similar in kind to attract concurrent.

Discount for poor health

In respect of the Judge’s four-month discount for ill health, we consider that he was particularly well placed to make the necessary assessment.

We agree with the Judge that Mr Nottingham presented with a complex combination of physical and mental health problems. Several reports identify him as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) attributable to childhood
trauma and although Dr Skipworth says this diagnosis “is controversial in cases of life-long trauma such as Mr Nottingham describes”, nevertheless he accepts it is one way clinicians choose to diagnose and understand “long-term personality dysfunction, interpersonal relational difficulties, cognitive impairment and mood dysregulation in presentations such as Mr Nottingham’s”.

We also note a diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury sustained in a high-speed motorcycle accident in 1996 and a further serious motorcycle accident in 2016 which Dr Walls was concerned had “significantly aggravated the old traumatic brain injury”.

Likewise, Mr Nottingham suffers from a significant number of physical impairments, principal among them recurrent and serious atrial fibrillation. This condition in turn compounds the congestive heart failure from which he also suffers. Multiple hospital admissions have resulted.

Overall, we are not persuaded that the Judge was wrong to make the allowance he did.

There’s not doubt there are serious health issues (and more than what is stated here), and that prison would impose more hardship than normal.

With such a dire health report I wonder that there would be far better and more important things to do than harass people and get bogged down in lengthy court procedures.

Combining the totality and health discounts, we therefore arrive at a sentence of 31 months’ imprisonment which is approximately 30 per cent higher than the Judge’s end point.

In re-sentencing Mr Nottingham we are, however, obliged to take into account the three and a half months of home detention he has already served. Allowing a seven-month discount in this respect again brings Mr Nottingham’s sentence to a level where the Court is obliged to consider home detention. We consider that to be an appropriate sentence, particularly having regard to:

(a) Mr Nottingham’s physical and mental health, which we consider would make the consequences of imprisonment disproportionately severe;

(b) the opportunity to direct participation in rehabilitative programmes, as recognised by the Judge; and

(c) the ability to protect the interests of the complainants and the community by the imposition of restrictive conditions of internet access, again as recognised and directed by the Judge.

I hope the complainants and other victims are adequately protected.

With no sign of acceptance of responsibility nor remorse I have doubts about the prospects of rehabilitative programmes having much impact.

Our approach is therefore to impose concurrent sentences, as follows:

(a) in respect of the offending against C, 12 months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(b) in respect of the offending against T, 12 months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(c) in respect of the offending against B, eight months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(d) in respect of the offending against H, six months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences;

(e) in respect of the offending against M, six months’ home detention, concurrent with all other sentences; and

(f) in respect of each breach of suppression, five months’ home detention concurrent with all other sentences.

The existing (part-served) sentence of home detention is quashed.

A new sentence of 12 months’ home detention (with identified concurrent home detention sentences) plus 100 hours’ community work is imposed, subject to the same conditions as imposed by the District Court.

That’s additional to the three and a half months home detention already served.

I’m aware there are some people who claim to have been badly affected by attacks by Nottingham and his cronies think that prison is deserved, but (and I haven’t been as severely affected) I don’t have a problem with the end sentence, despite him continuing with attacks and harassment while facing the charges this sentence applies to.

However if Nottingham offends again he would deserve what Court should then deal him.

I note that Nottingham tried to get a judge to put me “in prison by Christmas” in 2015 – for (allegedly and incorrectly) enabling people to find his posts at LF. But as with his double standards on name suppression – abusing and breaching it for others but claiming it for himself (as did Cameron Slater), what he wanted to inflict on others was something he tried to weasel out of for himself.

Full judgment: NOTTINGHAM v R [2019] NZCA 344 [30 July 2019]

Queen has approved suspension of UK Parliament

From Missy in London:


It’s all on now! The Government has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament shortly after they return from Summer recess with the Queen’s speech to be delivered on 14 October.

All eyes are on the Leader of the Opposition to see if he will call a vote of No Confidence next week, or bottle it again.

BBC:  Parliament to be suspended in September

Boris Johnson said a Queen’s Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his “very exciting agenda”.

But it means the time MPs have to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October would be cut.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said it was a “constitutional outrage”.

The Speaker, who does not traditionally comment on political announcements, continued: “However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of [suspending Parliament] now would be to stop [MPs] debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Suspending Parliament is not acceptable, it is not on. What the prime minister is doing is a smash and grab on our democracy to force through a no deal,” he said.

He said when MPs return to the Commons next Tuesday, “the first thing we’ll do is attempt legislation to prevent what [the PM] is doing”, followed by a vote of no confidence “at some point”.

The Privy Council have announced that the Queen has approved the suspension of Parliament.

Note, this is a long overdue suspension of Parliament, the current session is the longest Parliamentary session (time Parliament has sat without a speech from the throne) since the civil war, and is not that unusual.

There is some debate on social media regarding the suspension time, some suggest that it will only be an extra 3 or 4 days as Parliament would have been suspended for the Party Conference season in a couple of weeks, however, others suggest that this close to Brexit Parliament would have voted to continue sitting and not suspend Parliament. It seems the PM has gazumped those that may have tried to sit through the Conference season.

 

Speeding infringement overturned on appeal

This is an interesting case where a judgment found it proven that a Mr Mercer drove a vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding 100 km/h, but on appeal the infringement notice was dismissed after Mr Mercer argued that when two cars he was passing at a passing lane sped up his safest option was to exceed the speed limit to complete the massing manouvre before the passing lane ran out.

[1] Mr Mercer, who represents himself, appeals a decision of Judge CS Blackie finding proved that he drove a vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding 100 km/h, which was the applicable speed limit. This is an infringement offence.

[2] Mr Mercer did not dispute in the hearing before Judge Blackie that he exceeded the speed limit of 100 km/h. His case was that he had no choice. Mr Mercer said in evidence that a car he was passing increased its speed towards the end of the passing area and he decided the only safe course of action was to exceed the speed limit so as to complete his overtaking manoeuvre safely.

This sort of scenario will be familiar to many people. It is common for slow cars to speed up when they get to passing lanes, and for cars in the slow lane to speed up when being passed.

[7] Mr Mercer’s argument is to the effect that the Judge should have accepted his evidence about his reason for exceeding the speed limit and discharged him accordingly. Mr Mercer, not being a lawyer, advanced his argument on a common sense “it is just not right” basis.

[8] Judge Blackie acknowledged Mr Mercer’s argument, but he did not address it. By his decision the Judge rejected the argument, but he gave no reasons for doing so. That is unfortunate because there is at law a legal exception to the prohibition on exceeding a speed limit which might have applied to Mr Mercer.

[19] Mr Mercer’s relevant evidence-in-chief was:

A. There were two cars in front of me and I was driving along, I was behind them, yeah, obviously, they were mainly about 70 kilometres an hour and both, all of us were in the slow lane so I indicated right, wait for at least three seconds, went straight, I went 100 kilometres an hour and I should have easily overtaken them and then the – it appeared that the front car had accelerated at the last second so I believe I was going to hit that car.

Q. Yes?

A. If I slowed down I could’ve been stuck between those two cars which could’ve caused an accident as well. If I were to slam the brakes my car could’ve spun around into the traffic from the other direction, because of that I had to accelerate to make sure I got through uninjured or, there’s no accident …

[20] In cross-examination Mr Mercer said that when the passing lane was reached “a lot of the other cars took off, I just stayed behind the other two slow ones and then realised that they were going too slow so I just decided to go in the overtaking lane and pass them”

[21] Mr Mercer denied there was plenty of room to allow him to merge with the cars he was overtaking so it was unnecessary for him to complete the overtaking manoeuvre. The cross-examination ended with this exchange:

Q. And what I’m saying to you is that there’s plenty of room there?

A. I had to make a snap decision so I’d rather take the safe option which results in no one dying than, yeah, having an accident.

[32] …Mr Mercer’s evidence was he acted (by exceeding the speed limit) to avoid death or injury. There is no evidence to the contrary. It is not necessary for Mr Mercer to prove his act was objectively necessary to avoid death or injury, just that his act was taken (in that he took it for the purpose) to avoid death or injury.

Result

[33] Judge Blackie erred in not giving reasons as to why Mr Mercer’s explanation did not amount to a defence to the infringement notice. In light of my analysis of the evidence I have concluded that led to a miscarriage of justice.

[34] The appeal is allowed. The infringement notice is dismissed.

So a successful appeal that shows there is a defence against exceeding the speed limit for the purposes of avoiding death or injury.

It doesn’t say whether Mr Mercer had legal advice, but he successfully appealed acting for himself.

The full decision: MERCER v POLICE [2019] NZHC 1957 [13 August 2019]