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.

Police statement – Labour summer camp

Police are now investigating the allegations of sexual assault at the Labour summer camp:


Investigation commences into allegations about Young Labour summer camp

A police investigation has commenced into allegations regarding a Young Labour summer camp at Waihi in February.

The first step will be to assess information available to police to determine what is required from an investigation perspective.

The investigation will be overseen by Detective Superintendent Chris Page.

We continue to encourage anyone with information they wish to discuss with police, or matters they wish to report, to contact us.

Our priority is to ensure that anyone who wishes to speak with us can feel comfortable in doing so, and to ensure that appropriate support services are available.

We will not be publicly confirming any matters regarding those who may approach police, or complaints that may be received, to ensure that individuals can feel confident in speaking to us. We will also not discuss specific investigative steps which may be undertaken, or put a timeframe on the investigation.

Further information on NZ Police’s approach to investigating sexual assault can be found here: http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/sexual-assault

Allegation of sexual misconduct at Young Labour camp

Newsroom has another story about allegations of sexual misconduct, this time at a Young Labour summer camp. There are also questions over supply of alcohol to minors.

One drunk person can do a lot damage, but how it was dealt with is also important, and it seems astounding that while Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton was aware of it and is dealing with it, Jacinda Ardern said this afternoon that she knew nothing about it.

Newsroom: 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.

Labour Summer Schools are open to supporters of all ages including those under 18 and this year’s camp in the Karangahake Gorge ran from late afternoon on Friday, February 9 to Sunday, February 11.

More than 50 people attended the camp and about a third of those were 18 or under.

The ages of those who were allegedly assaulted has not been revealed.

According to witnesses, a large variety of alcohol was available on Saturday night and many people, including a 15-year-old boy, were drinking.

The “mountain” of alcohol included rum, vodka, cider and a large array of RTDs.

If people under the legal drinking age were supplied with alcohol, that’s another serious problem for Labour.

It’s understood the camp’s supervisor, Young Labour’s Tess Macintyre, had gone to bed around 9pm and was not present at the party.

Was no one in charge or responsible after that?

The camp’s ‘Code of Conduct’ was given to everyone who registered for the event.

It states there is “zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour. Inappropriate behaviour includes any criminal activity, as well as bullying or acting inappropriately toward other attendees”.

It sounds like a major fail on that one.

The code also refers to alcohol and sexual harassment.

“The organising committee has to pay special attention to the activities of all under 18s in the camp (especially in regards to alcohol). We do not want to prevent you having fun but must act according to the law. No Means No! Sexism and sexual harassment of any form will not be tolerated.”

And a fail on that as well.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, spoke at the event but was not present at the time of the incident.

Other speakers included Labour’s General Secretary, who outlined the party’s plans for 2018, MP for Waiariki Tamati Coffey on Māori development and Dr Sarb Johal on mental health.

Newsroom understands that the man involved was removed from the camp on the Sunday morning, the same day those attending heard a talk on feminism by Angie Warren-Clark – a Labour list MP and manager of the Tauranga Women’s Refuge.

She may not be very happy about the allegations.

Labour’s General Secretary, Andrew Kirton said he was aware of the incident and was currently, “working through it”.

Keeping the lid on it, until the news broke.

In a press conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was the first she’d heard of the allegations.

“I went to the opening of that summer camp, I attended at the very beginning, people had just arrived so certainly none of that was apparent when I was there. This is the first I’ve heard of any such allegations but now that you’ve made them I’ll happily investigate them because that is not what I would expect of any Labour function.”

‘Happily’ is not a great word to use in these circumstances.

“Given that I’ve just heard it now, I’d just ask for the time to look into that personally.”

On whether leadership knew: “That could well be the case, I’m certainly not ruling out that our Labour Party leadership may well be aware, I’m certainly just pointing out it has not been raised with me until now.”

It seems remarkable that the Labour Party was aware of the incident and “working through it”, but that Ardern was not informed.

This is a major embarrassment, with possible illegalities have occurred in respect of alcohol and supply and the sexual misconduct.

1 News has just reported that the police were not involved in the complaints. Why not?

How Labour deals with this from now is very important. This has put the Prime Minister in a very difficult position.

UPDATE: Statement from Andrew Kirton:

This sounds like an attempt at belated damage control. I think that Kirton has a bit more explaining to do.

UPDATE 2:

So it appears this was known about publicly (on Twitter) a month ago. I have the  Twitter account details but there is associated information on that tweet thread that I don’t want to repeat here).

UPDATE 3: a statement from Ardern:

That is doing little other then repeating Kirton’s ‘assurances’. Ardern needs to step up and show leadership on this – which means taking appropriate responsibility.

So Kirton decided to try and deal with it all on the quiet himself? Very risky.

So it sounds like acted when he knew the story was coming out.

There is more of this story to come out by the look of things.