Suppression continues in Labour camp assault case

The man facing multiple charges of sexual assault at a Labour Youth summer camp in February has had his name suppression extended until either a verdict or other determination, on the grounds that “there would be a real risk to fair trial rights”. This is a common reason for suppression pre-trial.

NZH:  Labour Party summer camp indecent assault accused keeps name suppression

The 20-year-old was arrested in June and charged with six counts of indecent assault against four complainants.

Today, the accused appeared before Judge Russell Collins in the Auckland District Court seeking to extend his interim name suppression.

The man’s lawyer Emma Priest argued her client should keep his name suppression until determination of the charges, and may seek permanent suppression if there were valid grounds to do so.

Judge Collins granted interim name suppression until either verdict or other determination and bailed the man to appear in court again later this year.

“I am satisfied, and have been satisfied quite quickly, there would be a real risk to fair trial rights,” he said.

The judge continued there had been an “extremely high-level of media coverage” with many people talking in the press “without thinking that a prosecution may ultimately result”.

“Many people have commented publicly with the only inference to be taken from the comments is that the defendant must be guilty.

“His presumption of innocence is paramount,” Judge Collins said.

Given the level of public and media interest in the case I think this is a fair call, presuming that it will be a jury trial.

This suppression means that no attempt to identify the person in any way can be allowed here.

Labour camp review recommendations, but no holding to account, victim appalled

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth said a report on the Labour Youth Camp near Waihi in February had made a number of recommendations which would all be adopted – but I can’t find any details on anyone being held accountable for the use of alcohol by young people, the lack of supervision, and the slow and poor response by party officials.

Timeline (Newsroom and RNZ):

  • 9-11 February 2018: Labour Youth Waitawheta Camp near Waihi in February
  • 12 March: Sexual misconduct alleged at boozy Labour Party camp
    The Labour Party has been hit with claims that four young supporters were sexually assaulted at one of its annual ‘Summer School’ camps near Waihi last month.The four – two males and two females – are all 16 and were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a wild party on the second night of the camp. Newsroom has been told the man was intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people.
  • 12 March: PM investigating reports of sexual assault at Labour event
    Labour’s general secretary Andrew Kirton didn’t notify the Prime Minister, the police or parents that four teenagers were allegedly sexually assaulted at its summer camp last month.
  • 13 March: Labour camp misconduct: Victim reached out to Megan Woods
    It has been revealed that Cabinet Minister Megan Woods was contacted by a victim raising concerns about incidents of sexual assault of teenagers at a Labour Party summer camp.
  • 14 March: Second Labour sexual assault incident alleged
    Another person has contacted the Labour Party saying they too were sexually assaulted at a Labour event several years ago. Labour has already apologised to four teenagers who were sexually harassed by a 20-year-old man at a Labour youth camp in Waihi last month.
  • 19 March: Details of Labour’s sexual assault review revealed
    The review into how Labour handled complaints of sexual assault is expected to take up to three months and every party member will be contacted.
  • 22 June: Andrew Kirton steps down as Labour Party general secretary
    The Labour Party’s general secretary, Andrew Kirton, has resigned to take up a senior position with Air New Zealand.
  • 5 July: Labour Party camp accused in court, name suppressed
    A 20-year-old man has appeared in court charged with indecent assaults at a Labour Party youth summer camp. He denied six charges of assaulting four victims believed to be aged 16 to 18. The man was arrested on 26 June.
  • 29 August: Review reported on

The report was “expected to take up to three months” but has been partially reported on five months later.

RNZ:  Labour to review policies after Young Labour camp incidents

The Labour Party says it will implement all the recommendations of a report into indecent assaults at a Young Labour camp in February.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth said Labour had committed to putting in place all the recommendations and had established a process for that work to be completed.

The recommendations:

  • Develop a more tangible and effective relationship between Young Labour and the Labour Party
  • Review and/or develop policies on The party’s code of conduct – along with consideration as to whether that should apply to the Young Labour Party, or whether a modified or separate code should be developed
  • Review and/or develop policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault, alcohol, events and host responsibility, bullying and complaint procedure
  • Incorporate updated event registration and parental consent and risk disclosure information requirements and forms to ensure compliance with current best practice and all legislation relating to the care of minors when participating in party held events.
  • Ensure at least one Labour Party representative should also attend the entire event and be available throughout (solely or jointly with another nominated adult supervisor) to ensure compliance with safety and welfare expectations and the Young Labour Party should also nominate a welfare officer to attend all events
  • Introduce a new, over-arching alcohol policy, formulated in consultation with expert external advice
  • Introduce a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice.

However, Mr Haworth said he would not be releasing the report.

One of the victims:

“As far as I’m concerned the failure to release the report to the media is absolutely disgraceful”

“I feel to a degree that there is conflict of interest in a sense – one of the most influential figures that was aware of the original complaint, which is the President of the party, is also the person that is in charge of implementing the recommendations of the review.

“Further to that, the fact that it hasn’t been released to the media shows an absolute lack of transparency, but a copy also hasn’t been released to the victims or the people that were interviewed for the review, which from my perspective as a victim is absolutely disgraceful.”

Jacinda Ardern…

…said she has yet to read the full report, however, it would not be made public because the events detailed in it were still before the court.

The review was undertaken for a reason and the party knows there were things it needed to do differently, Ms Ardern said.

I understand the need to not make the full report public due to matters still being ‘before the court’.

There seems to be no reason why victims should not be given the report, except that Labour may want to keep things from being revealed that could impact on the prosecution.

Perhaps Labour have given their report to the prosecution to help with the facts of the matter, but I can’t see any indication of this having been done.

I can see no indication of anyone apart from the alleged offender being held accountable.

Party secretary Andrew Kirton resigned in June and left the party in July.

Labour need to maker sure things like this don’t happen again in the future, so it is good to see recommendations on that.

But there appears to be no holding to account for those that allowed underage drinking at February’s camp, enabled alleged sexual assaults to happen, and then tried to deal with it alarmingly inadequately, and secretly.

Newsroom:  Victim slams Labour summer camp report

One of the victims from Labour’s youth summer camp scandal has slammed the party for its “absolutely appalling” handling of a review into what went wrong, saying nobody is being held accountable.

“Failing to release the report shows a blatant lack of accountability and from my perspective as a victim, is absolutely appalling.”

The report should have been released with the redaction of any information which could have identified people, they said.

The victims and witnesses involved in Austen’s inquiry were not given a copy of the final report either.

They also questioned the news that Haworth would lead the work on changing Labour’s procedures, given the failures of the party in handling the initial complaint.

“The person in charge of implementing the recommendations is the person that hasn’t been trusted in the first place to provide support and resolve the issue…I don’t see accountability there.”

The victim believed alcohol should be banned entirely from events which had significant numbers of people under the age of 18, rather than allowing adults to drink while in attendance.

Labour have failed again to address concerns of at least one victim.

 

 

Helen Clark: Ardern was ‘let down’ by party officials

Helen Clark has said that it was “unbelievable” that Jacinda Ardern was not told about sexual assault allegations at a Young Labour camp before the story broke publicly.

Stuff – Helen Clark: PM Ardern was ‘let down’ when she wasn’t told about sexual assault allegations

Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton has come under fire for not telling police, parents of the alleged victims, or the prime minister – his boss, about allegations a 20-year-old man sexually assaulted four teenagers at a Young Labour camp near Waihi in February.

Helen Clark:

“Jacinda was let down. She should have been told immediately, actually, then events would have taken a different course. And I cannot understand why she wasn’t told. Unbelievable.”

Asked if there should be ramifications for Andrew Kirton or those in party management, Clark said: “If you get out the book and ask what would Helen have done, well, draw your own conclusions.”

“She’s done her best to repair it after the event, but leaders never like to be blindsided.”

Ardern’s response (from her office):

“As the Prime Minister has said, there are more serious issues here that concern her than whether she was given an early warning by the party.”

Being ambushed by awkward revelations seems to be a recurring thing for Ardern.

Yesterday alone she has had to deal with The unclear Curran RNZ debacle as well as a disturbing claim of political blackmail involving a NZ First MP and possibly a NZ First Minister.

Labour sexual assault review – terms of reference

Labour has released the terms of reference for the review into the sexual assault issues at the Young Labour summer camp. It will take 2-3 months, and all Labour Party members will be contacted.


Maria Berryman Review: Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference for the Berryman review have been finalised.

  1. Ms. Berryman will inquire and report on:
    1. all Labour Party policies and procedures in relation to Young Labour events, that existed as of February 2018, having regard to all relevant legislation;
    2. whether such policies and procedures were applied correctly in respect of the February 2018 Young Labour summer camp;
    3. whether the policies and procedures, when correctly applied, adequately support the Labour Party’s objective of providing a safe environment for members and participants;
    4. all Labour Party policies and procedures in relation to the planning and management of events and the handling of complaints, having regard to all relevant legislation;
    5. whether such policies and procedures were applied correctly in respect of the February 2018 allegations;
    6. whether the policies and procedures, when correctly applied, reflect best practice.
  2. The Reviewer will not investigate or make findings about the specific allegations of sexual assault, except to the extent of how the policies and processes were applied in relation to the events prior to, and after, the alleged assaults.
  3. The Reviewer will make any recommendations for change that she thinks appropriate.
  4. In addition, because the possibility of at least one other incident of a similar nature has been raised in the media, the Reviewer will also be available to, and will establish processes to:
    1. receive any other concerns of issues that any person may wish to raise in relation to previous events (either relating to Young Labour or the Labour Party more generally); and
    2. take such steps as she considers appropriate in relation to those other issues, having regard to the wishes of those who raise them with her. Those steps may include recommendations to the Labour Party Council.

“Ms Berryman is commencing immediately with the initial focus of her investigation on the Young Labour camp in February. The review is expected to take between two and three months,” said Nigel Haworth, Labour Party President.

“A statement will be issued when the review has been completed, outlining any recommendations as well as the steps the Labour Party will be taking to implement them.

“All members of the Party will be contacted in relation to the review.

“Historical cases may be brought to Ms Berryman’s attention by sending details of the case to: labourreview@kensingtonswan.com

“This address will be confidential to Ms Berryman and will be available on our website at www.labour.org.nz.

“The Labour Party will fully cooperate with Ms Berryman’s requirements in the completion of her review.

“Labour will not be commenting further while this investigation is underway,” said Haworth.

Ardern on the Nation

Ardern was conspicuous by her absence from the first two programmes of The Nation this year, and also from the first Q&A.

She fronts up today on The Nation – possibly scheduled before her tough week at the Beehive office.

On why no one has been sacked over the summer camp mess.

“If everyone who ever made a mistake in their job was sacked, we wouldn’t be left with many people left, particularly in politics.”

Ardern keeps diverting from ‘political management’ to supporting the young people when asked why Minister Megan Woods and MP Liz Craig didn’t advise her about the problems.

Defending her MP Liz Craig, who was photographed at a table with Young Labour members drinking alcohol at the summer camp where the alleged sexual assaults took place. When asked if Ms Craig had met expectations: “I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest otherwise.”

Asked if the party intentionally insulated Ardern from the issue?

She disagrees. Strongly disagrees.

And then diverts back to ‘the young people’.

Asked again.

When asked if her party gave her “plausible deniability” by not telling her about the Labour summer camp allegations, replied: “Absolutely not. I push back on that very hard. That implies that our number-one concern here was political management. That’s not fair.”

And then diverts back to ‘the young people’.

How many other issues have been raised? She has seen one raised on social media.

Asked more specifically about any issues over the last ten years? She concedes some but only those reported in the media.

She was not asked to confirm that she knew nothing about the issue until Monday.


On Russia.

Ardern leaving the door open to a trade deal with Russia. “It is too early to say, under the current circumstances we find ourselves in with [the] Salisbury [nerve agent attack], to say if and when those negotiations and talks would restart.”

Four times now PM says too early to say if FTA talks with Russia will restart – no definitely ruling out.


On the proposed new prison.

The ‘out of control prison population’ is one of the biggest issues the Government has been grappling with.

They “should go back and have a look” at bail laws – a large part of the increase in prisoner numbers is as a result of changes to bail laws and an increase in the number of people on remand prior to trial.

On possible loosening of parole & bail laws: “We are not making justice-policy decisions based on bed capacity. We’re making decisions on what delivers the best outcomes in terms of safety for the community & reducing reoffending and improving rehab.”

She won’t say if they will build the prison or not. Still considering it.

“Do I want to build another prison? No. Do I want extra bed capacity? No. But am I being told that if we had an earthquake tomorrow, we wouldn’t have a place to put prisoners? Those are all things we’re having to grapple with”.

Believes consideration of a Waikeria Prison rebuild is not a betrayal of her commitment to Māori at Waitangi.


A lot on poverty policies, but little in definitive policy or commitments.

Staking her reputation on economic growth remaining stable after cutting immigration. “I don’t agree that that will be the consequences of our policies at all.

Says they don’t have any extra money specifically for child poverty in this budget – even though numbers of kids being raised from poverty revised downwards from 88,000 to 64,000

Working on a lot of things – except making commitments.

Not committing to implementing all recommendations from Climate Commission. She also won’t commit to ending oil and gas exploration permits. “I’m not going to pre-empt that decision, but we’re working on it.”

On Peters as acting Prime Minister – she ‘imagines’ she will stay in touch with him while on maternity leave.

She is adept at sounding strong and clear, but being vague.

“Let me be very clear about this. This is something we are working on and I can’t give you those answers at the moment.”

 

Ardern’s difficult week

Jacinda Ardern has experienced the highs of politics, rescuing the Labour Party from political oblivion and becoming Prime Minister are just a couple. She also revelled in attention at Waitangi for a week in early February, and spent last week being applauded and praised on a tour around the South Pacific.

This week was at the other end of the scale though.

It would have been very challenging for her, to say the least. As well as relatively minor  but embarrassing stories about Ministers – Jenny Salesa’s big spending on travel and Ron Mark’s use of Defence Force helicopters and planes as ministerial taxis – there have been major issues, the Young Labour summer camp fiasco, and dealing with Winston Peters and Russia.

Ardern has copped a lot of flak, but some of the media have still been easy on her while blasting others in Labour.

Stuff’s Below the Beltway: A week in politics

DOWN

The Labour Party:The Labour Party undoubtedly dropped the ball in its handling of the alleged sexual assault incidents at last month’s Young Labour summer camp. Four 16-year-olds were allegedly sexually assaulted by a 20-year-old Young Labour supporter. There have since been further allegations of sexual assault and misconduct at past Young Labour events. As well as leaving Young Labour to run the camp, where alcohol was available to underage attendees, the party was then slow to deal with the incident, and to offer support to the victims. The prime minister, who was kept out of the loop until media uncovered the incident, admitted the party failed the victims, and has ordered an independent inquiry, and a full review of the party’s processes.

But Ardern hasn’t escaped criticism.

Tracy Watkins goes easy in Jacinda Ardern has political capital to burn but Labour shouldn’t squander it

Did Labour learn nothing from nine frustrating years in Opposition up against the hugely popular John Key?

If crisis management is how we judge our prime ministers Ardern’s handling of Labour’s Waihi camp scandal is text book.

She has apologised to the young people involved, acknowledged Labour’s failure of care and put a process in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But she has had to burn up some of her precious political capital making up for the party’s shambolic response to allegations that four young people were sexually assaulted during the boozy Young Labour event.

I wouldn’t call her handling text book at all. The story broke on Monday. Ardern didn’t front up on it until Wednesday, and she has given party officials a pass on their inept handling of it.

The bigger failing, of course, was letting down the young people in its care by its failure to act.

But there is a political price to pay for that, as well as a personal one.

Labour might think it can keep calling on the bank of Jacinda Ardern. But her political capital will not be limitless – and it wants to be careful it doesn’t squander it just because it can.

Despite Watkin’s tip toeing Ardern’s ‘political capital’ has taken a hit over this.

Duncan Garner: Labour president should walk the plank over ‘gobsmackingly incompetent’ handling of camp saga

It had to end some time. The golden glow and constant smile were never going to stretch through an alleged sex scandal involving young people and booze.

Honeymoons simply can’t go on forever, and Jacinda Ardern will surely be reflecting on that as she grabs an organic latte from Mt Albert’s local markets this weekend.

New prime ministers always hope their political honeymoon will stretch on and on, but in this business there’s always an idiot lurking around the corner. Most of the time he or she is in your camp.

Unbelievably … and somehow we have to believe this, no one told the PM. That needs to change in future. Information is power. Ardern needs to know everything. She looked like a startled possum in the headlights this week. Don’t surprise your prime minister with the cameras rolling.

And her condemnation of Labour was weak too.

But there is one crucial thing they really needed to do. Labour should have told the parents of the alleged victims. If I was the father I’d be furious. But apparently the victim has that right to privacy. The parents deserved to know to help make the best decision for their teenager.

The gloss came off the Labour Party this week.

And some of the gloss came off Ardern.

Audrey Young: A week Jacinda Ardern will want to forget

I disagree with the headline – if Ardern wants to learn from this week she needs to remember the mistakes.

The past week has been the worst for Jacinda Ardern since she became Prime Minister.

That may be more of a reflection of how many excellent weeks she has had than necessarily how terrible it has been.

It has not been a disaster, and there will definitely be worse to come. But it has been a mess.

She has had to deal with two very different and vexed issues of political management: the Labour Party’s handling of indecent assaults on young people at its summer camp, and her deputy and coalition partner beginning to flex his muscles as Foreign Minister.

The Labour camp issue is highly embarrassing for Labour and for Ardern, but both should survive it – it is now in it’s tidy up phase.

But the Winston Peters issue is more problematic politically. This week Ardern was slow to respond on it as well.

The summer school episode was eventually contained. Dealing with the Peters problem is more difficult. Being in a second season as foreign minister under a Prime Minister who is not seasoned in Foreign Affairs, he is being less guarded in what he says than he was in the 2005 – 2008 under Clark.

He seems to have forgotten the maxim that the Prime Minister is always the real foreign minister and that together they have to present a seamless face to the world and to the public. There should not be an iota of difference between their intention, their messages and their tone.

But Peters has raised eyebrows not just domestically over comments on Newshub’s The Nation programme.

He criticised the EU when it is on the brink of launching free trade negotiations with New Zealand, showed empathy towards Donald Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium, and showed sympathy to Russia over accusations of downing MH17.

His off-the-cuff comments on MH17 drew criticism from Australian Labor MP Penny Wong and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as well as the National opposition and an editorial in The Australian newspaper.

Ardern has been left this week having to defend what he said and what he meant, because his own clarifications have been anything but clarifying. Words matter, as Peters is fond of saying.

Ardern herself weighed into the backing-Britain issue on Friday with more appropriate criticism levelled towards Russia.

It was messy week but she finally got to where she needed to be – in control.

Eventually, sort of, in control, maybe.

The Russia problem is unlikely to go away quickly.

If Peters has conceded that a trade deal with Russia won’t be a big legacy achievement for him, will he be looking for something else to promote? Will that also clash with Government policies?

In a few months Ardern will take six weeks (corrected) maternity leave. A Government should be able to manage that without any problems.

If Helen Clark had had to take time out Michael Cullen would probably have stepped up virtually seamlessly.

John Key took permanent time out and Bill English stepped up without a hiccup, it was business as usual for the National led government.

But this week has shown a potential weakness in the current party power sharing arrangement. Ardern was slow but eventually stepped up and took over the Russian issue from Peters.

What if something crops up while Ardern is on leave and as acting PM Peters promotes his own agenda rather than the Government’s? Ardern will still be Prime Minister, but it will be far more noticeable if she needs to step out of the nursery and step in over the top of Peters again.

Peters always looked like one of the biggest risks for the Labour-NZ First-Green government. This week reinforced concerns about that.

The problem is not just a clash between what Peters wants and what the Government and country needs – Peters has done some damage to New Zealand internationally, which is bad enough.

What we are yet to see is how Peters will react if Ardern keeps overriding him.

How will he handle things as acting PM if a young mother puts the nappies down to tidy up another Peters botch-up?

The Labour camp issue is now in the hands of the police and nothing like that is likely to happen again.

The potential for Winston problems is ongoing, in a challenging time for Ardern, when she will be somewhat distracted.

An added problem is that Labour don’t have a 2IC ready to step up, Kelvin Davis looks nothing like a strong deputy leader. Grant Robertson is sidelined in Finance. It would raise eyebrows and likely cause friction if David Parker has to step in and clash with Peters.

This has been a difficult week for Ardern for sure, but every week is potentially difficult for a Prime Minister. There will be more to come, including while Peters is in charge.

“Attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues”

It is normal for political activists to over play attacks on opponents, and to make excuses and minimise issues that put their favoured parties and politicians in a bad light. This has been apparent over the sexual abuse claims at Young Labour’s summer camp.

This can go to the extreme of trying to shift blame to opponents, sometimes to a ridiculous degree. Like this from ‘Anne’ at The Standard:

I am becoming convinced that this Youth Camp incident is being used by Labour’s opponents to destroy General Secretary, Andrew Kirton. The MO is remarkably similar to that used on David Cunliffe… grab a piece of info. (eg. a letter he had received 12 yearspreviously) and create a false meme around it. Make sure your MSM acolytes keep it on the boil for as long as possible. They all know the truth will out eventually, but that doesn’t matter because by then the damage has already been done.

And Draco T Bastard:

I’m pretty sure the only reason it’s in the news is for the political point scoring done by the RWNJs.

No other case of sexual abuse gets this sort of attention from the MSM.

Anne again:

Warning! Right wing concern troll calling him/herself John Selway has been sent to TS. Wonder who his/her masters are… and what his/her previous mission was?

Now there’s a real conspiracy theory for the deniers to dig their fangs into.

Ironic that she mentioned conspiracy theory.

Tim Murphy at Newsroom (where the story broke) writes How bad is bad enough?

By common consent the Labour Party has handled the sexual assaults against four young supporters at a political summer camp badly. Labour’s top two names certainly think so. Among their statements on Wednesday were

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

“This sexual abuse took place.”

“The event was not undertaken in a safe and responsible way.”

“Things went very, very wrong.”

 

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth:

“We have failed in our duty of care since the event.”

Their acceptance of failure and distress on behalf of the victims was unmissable. No gilding of the lily at the top level.

But among their supporters there were those determined not to take their leaders’ lead and accept that Labour did not do right by these victims.

On social media some have claimed the disclosure of these sexual assaults was somehow a political attack on Labour; that National did not get intense media scrutiny over John Key’s ponytail pulling or Todd Barclay and Bill English’s behaviour over the taping of a staff member; that Newsroom, in breaking this news showed no concern for the four victims.

They have been shooting the messenger. They have been minimising.

Shooting the messenger is common on political forums, but more problematic is the minimising of what Ardern and Haworth have admitted are serious problems that include sexual assault.

They are wrong, wrong and wrong. Key was confronted with the starkest and most intense coverage of his bizarre and indefensible fetish, Barclay was forced to resign after weeks of media scrutiny.

Whataboutism has been rife – including here at YourNZ. That’s a common diversionary tactic.

But with the clear acceptance at the top that so much went wrong – for the victims, and *after* the camp – the ongoing confidence in Kirton and the attempts by some fringe Labour supporters to minimise these issues are more than a little troubling.

In effect they are minimising what could amount to multiple serious assaults. That is troubling – and also troubling is that nonsense claims on this are allowed to stand unsubstantiated at The Standard.

There are also many troubling comments on this issue at Kiwiblog, but that’s another story.

Also another story, from NZH – Witness: People were vomiting in the toilets and bushes from too much boozing at Young Labour summer camp

An eyewitness at the Young Labour party during the Waihi summer camp says it was a “recipe for disaster”, describing it as an unsupervised party where people were throwing up in toilets and in the bushes from excessive boozing.

And there was a giant walk-in fridge where anyone, including people as young as 15, could just walk in and grab any booze they wanted.

The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the public deserved to know the true nature of the event, during which a 20-year-old is alleged to have sexually assaulted four people aged between 16 and 18.

“On the Saturday night, even before dinner, people were playing goon bag roulette with the clothes line, hanging a bag of cask wine and sitting underneath it and spinning the clothes line,” the man said.

The use and abuse of alcohol is one of the problems accepted by Ardern and will be included in their inquiry into what went wrong.

‘Expert’ advice on informing victims’ parents questioned

Labour party officials defended their decision not to inform parents of the victims of the alleged sexual assaults at the Young Labour summer camp.

Stuff: Labour Party confirms sexual misconduct at camp – parents and police not told

Labour’s general secretary has defended not telling the police or parents about complaints teenagers were sexually assaulted at a summer camp last month.

Andrew Kirton, the Labour Party’s general secretary, said he stood by the way the party had handled the situation, which he said was done with a “victim-led” focus on the back of advice from a Wellington sexual violence charity.

Parents of the victims hadn’t been told about the incident because “we wanted to deal with the young people in the first instance,” Kirton said.

“We didn’t want to assume the young people involved had told their parents. They’re 16 so that had an impact on that decision and that was the advice we got.”

But the advice Kirton says he received is universal ‘best practice’.

I have received a copy of a professsional counselor’s advice on confidentially not being absolute when dealing with young people suffering trauma.


I have recently had a chance to catch up with the news regarding the sexual assault allegations perpetrated against 4 young people at the NZ Labour Party Youth Camp at Waihi, and I find myself feeling simply appalled by the role of the Counsellors in this saga.

In my professional practice opinion, gleaned from over 17,000 hours of practice, the decision by the so-called “experts” to not tell parents about what had happened to their children at the camp flies in the face of common sense and ethical decency.

This decision is also at odds with the evidence of what constitutes best practice.

There are a number of logical inconsistencies within the narrative of those who were charged with providing a safe environment for these young people – so many in fact as to risk eroding parental And caregiver confidence in the ability of the “experts” to actually make reasonable and rational decisions regarding people in crisis under their care.

This story is one of many to have emerged over time, under the mis-represented umbrella of “client confidentiality”.

Confidentiality (in any profession) is not absolute.

For Counsellors in this story to claim that confidentiality is absolute, is to incur an inconsistency with their own ethical Codes of Practice.

I know this, because I have had cause to review the Codes of Ethics for the six main Professional Associations that operate within the social service delivery space, a review that also included the Privacy Act 1993.

Every single one of the aforementioned documents accepts breach of confidentiality without client consent in four instances of disclosure: risk to self, risk to others, risk from others, and disclosure of illegal intent or action.

These breaches have particular significance for clients under the age of 17, which all of the alleged camp victims were.

Part of the informed consent process for clients in Counselling is for the Counsellor to advise clients at the beginning of the first session that some exceptions to confidentiality exist, prior to any disclosure being made.

Failure of the Counsellor to conduct an adequate informed consent process can result in the Counsellor adopting a level of responsibility for the client and families welfare that they have no right to claim in the absence of parental involvement and awareness (as has happened in this case).

Offering an illegitimate blanket of confidentiality also risks further alienating a young client from the enduring available support structures available within the family unit.

There is also a logical inconsistency in the reasons given by the experts not to tell the parents about what occurred in the camp, and it goes like this.

The experts in this saga claim that the alleged victims of the sexual assault were traumatised by the actions against them, yet it is these same traumatised minds that the experts choose to trust in terms of the victims (who are most likely fearful, confused, and in shock themselves) being able to make a reasonable decision about who to tell or not tell about what happened, because of the risk of re-traumatisation?!

This isn’t (as the experts claim) best practice – it’s rather professional abdication of a legitimate responsibility for the Counsellor to skillfully navigate the child towards their family so that the family can manage the issue at hand, with assistance from the Counsellor, if required.

The oft-repeated acclaimed rights of children and young people thus become misguided ideological nonsense when contrasted against the sanctity of the parent-child relationship which informs the right of parents to decide what is best for their children.

There is now a plethora of longitudinal population research studies that reveal that the higher order brain centres (e.g. the pre-frontal cortex, responsible for integrating sensory information and reasoning) don’t fully develop until the early-mid twenties.

To therefore assume (as the experts in this case have) that young people in crisis are capable of making a rational decision about what is best for them in the absence of parental or caregiver guidance is a classic example of present day ideology attempting to supersede historical and empirically revealed common sense.

Perhaps the lesson for the Counselling profession is this: when working with clients, and particularly younger clients, those who claim to be “helping” need to be very cautious of claiming a responsibility for a young person’s welfare or situation that is not theirs to claim.

A life may well eventually depend on the application of such professional discernment.

20 year old should front up

One 20 year old man has caused substantial damage after alleged sexual assaults at a party during a Young Labour summer camp last month.

I think he should front up and identify himself, to remove suspicion from anyone else (particularly the other young males who attended the camp). As he is facing a police investigation and possible charges he shouldn’t have to admit anything, but he should out himself.

Jacinda Ardern accepts that something serious occurred:

“The environment was not a safe one and that’s something we have to fix.

“It shouldn’t have happened, we should absolutely have made sure those people were looked after and that hasn’t happened.”

From a statement from Labour General Secretary Andrew Kirton indicates no party denial that something serious happened:

“We are extremely disappointed that an incident like this happened at a Labour event and we are working to make sure those involved receive any support they need. We are deeply sorry for the distress that’s been caused. It shouldn’t have happened.

“The morning after an evening in which we understand several young people had consumed alcohol, Young Labour was alerted to complaints in relation to the behaviour of a 20-year-old man.

“I have subsequently banned the perpetrator from any future Labour Party events.”

The actions of the 20 year old have caused problems for many.

Obviously the claimed four victims will be have been affected, at least one (reported to be male) to the extent that they prompted Labour (Megan Woods) to do something about it, and they have now complained to the police, who are investigating.

Others impacted by their actions or by association:

  • Young Labour, who have had all events suspended by the Labour Party.
  • The camp organiser (who went to bed early, before the alleged offences occurred).
  • The Labour Party, in particular secretary Andrew Kirton who has admitted not responding to the allegations adequately, and also president Nigel Haworth who was involved in the inadequate action.
  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who, if as claimed she only found out when blind sided at a media conference on Monday, has been seriously embarrassed by the offending at the camp (which she had attended) and by the poor handling of the aftermath.
  • Cabinet Minister Megan Woods who initiated action when approached by someone on Facebook – she should be credited for acting immediately, but has been criticised for not informing Ardern.
  • New Labour MP Liz Craig, who was at the camp but was asleep when the alleged offences occurred (however she was present when alcohol was being consumed).
  • The 50 or so attendees at the camp.

Those who attended the camp other than the alleged victims will also have been impacted. I’m sure they have had to explain their involvement in the camp, and the partying, and if under age the alcohol consumption (and possibly drugs).

NZ Herald:

Kirton told the Herald that Labour had not sought the consent of minors to supply them alcohol because it had not been expected that they would be drinking alcohol.

Under the law it is unlawful to supply anyone aged under 18 with alcohol without the consent of a parent or guardian.

Kirton said such consent was not sought “because the intention was no one under 18 would participate in that.”

According to witnesses who spoke to Newsroom, there was a large array of alcohol available at the Saturday night party including rum, vodka, cider and a large array of RTDs. The witness saw many people drinking, including a 15-year-old.

This will affect any Labour events in the future.

But the biggest and immediate issue is the alleged sexual assaults.

Any of the males who attended the camp will be under suspicion. Most won’t be 20 years old, but they shouldn’t have to wear signs around their necks saying “Yes I was at the camp but no I am not 20!”

Andrew Kirton:

Kirton says the 20-year-old alleged to have groped the four teenagers at the event was “deeply embarrassed” when confronted about it the next day.

“He was spoken to the morning after and my understanding is he was deeply embarrassed and they got him out straight away.

“My understanding from the conversation relayed back to me was that he recognised he had drunk too much and that he was embarrassed by what happened.”

Recognising that he had drunk too much is not the issue. The allegations of multiple sexual groping are the problem here, and alcohol consumption is no excuse for that. Most people who drink alcohol don’t act as alleged he did. There is only one alleged offender.

That person should identify themselves so that no one else involved is under suspicion.

This shouldn’t impact on the victims, who won’t be identified any more than they are now.

The 20 year old, if he did offend, has a legal right to not admit anything, but he could save the victims a lot ongoing attention and grief by fronting up and accepting responsibility and admitting what he did. This would mean the victims would not have to go through the investigation processes and possibly court processes.

The 20 year old has caused many problems and has done a lot of damage, to the victims if the allegations are true, to Young Labour and to Labour.

He could mitigate some of that damage by fronting up. This would also mitigate the end result of any legal repercussions.

If he remains silent and anonymous the damage will continue – in particular for the victims and for innocent males who also attended the camp.

 

Labour front up over summer camp allegations

After copping a lot pf criticism over the last two days Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern and party president Nigel Haworth fronted up at a media conference today.

I think they did a good job of accepting responsibility and detailing what they would do to address the problems coming out of their one of mishandling the sexual assault allegations, and what they would do to try to minimise the chances of anything like it happening again.

They had little choice but to do this, to try to stem the damage and restore some credibility.

They have put a hold on any Young Labour events.

Interesting to see Ardern and Haworth fronting up on it today. Until now party secretary Andrew Kirton had copped most of the media attention on the issue.

RNZ: ‘We failed in our duty of care’ – Labour leadership

The Labour’s Party leadership has apologised “deeply” to the victims of sexual assault at a Young Labour summer camp, their parents and the other young people there.

At a media stand-up held this afternoon, Leader Jacinda Ardern and party president Nigel Haworth unveiled a number of measures the party was taking, two days after it emerged four 16-year-olds were sexually harassed or assaulted by a 20-year-old at a Young Labour camp.

“We understand we failed in our duty of care during the event,” said Mr Haworth. “We have failed in our duty of care in terms of support we’ve offered since then, we are very, very distressed about this.”

He wanted to “apologise deeply” to the four young people who have been so “grievously treated”, to their families and the other young people at the event.

Changes will be made to way Labour events are held, including having a “senior member of the party” at all Young Labour events, once they are resumed.

No heads would roll as a result of the handling of the Waihi incident, said Mr Haworth, including his own and that of general secretary Andrew Kirton.

I don’t see any need for resignations at this stage. Everyone can make mistakes, especially in politics and political management – and Labour and it’s officials have major mistakes here. They should learn from them. If not and mistakes like this keep happening then jobs will be in jeopardy.

Ms Ardern did not want to make detailed comments about what happened while investigations were underway. But she did confirm a Labour MP was present “generally” at the camp.

“Liz Craig was there, she had an early flight the next day so was in bed at the time this all occurred.

“I cannot say when she went to bed but she’s been very clear about the fact she wasn’t present when the sexual abuse took place”, said Ms Ardern.

She was present during some of the drinking though – there are photos of this circulating.

However she is not likely to have been responsible for organising or supervising.

She also backed Mr Kirton saying while the assaults had been handled “very, very badly” by the party, he had acknowledged there were failings.

“He is now very much a part of the party’s work to fixing the issues and the failings that we recognise.”

In statement posted to Facebook, Ms Craig said she was at the Young Labour Summer Camp at Waihi as a guest speaker on oral health issues.

“I overnighted at the camp as I was unable to get same day flights and left early the following morning.”

She attended a quiz event and went to bed early once that had finished, she said.

“While alcohol was present, I understood the organising committee had put in place measures to ensure those under the age of 18 were not drinking, and that organising committee members had been designated to oversee the evening’s events.

“I was dismayed to hear of events being raised in the media this week, as I was unaware until then that anything of this nature had occurred.”

If she left early on the Sunday morning she may have missed the eviction frrom the camp of the offender.

Senior barrister Maria Berryman has been brought in to look at how the party deals with harassment and abuse at other Labour party events.

Labour also confirmed today it had suspended all events held by its youth wing as it reviewed the sexual assault claims, one of which was now being investigated by police.

Mr Haworth said when they were reinstated they will be run by the party and not Young Labour officials. They will also be alcohol-free and a senior member of the party will be present.

Speaking to media this afternoon, Ms Ardern said she was not aware of any previous instances at events she had attended as an MP and as a member of Young Labour.

“[However], I cannot, hand on heart, rule out that this hasn’t happened before.”

Thias is far from over for Labour, but they took a big step in the right direction today.