11 Sep 2019

Labour president resigns over assault complaints fiasco

From Checkpoint, 5:10 pm on 11 September 2019
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Labour Party President Nigel Haworth’s resignation was announced just before midday on Wednesday, as the fiasco around allegations of assaults by a Labour Party staffer.

The Prime Minister accepted Mr Haworth’s resignation after viewing correspondence that complainants wrote to the party several months ago. That correspondence confirmed extremely serious allegations had been made.

Still Mr Haworth stands by his earlier claims that allegations of a sexual assault by a Labour Party staffer were not provided to the investigation panel and he was not told about them at a prior meeting.  

A 19-year-old volunteer claims she was sexually assaulted by the Labour staffer last year, and says she raised it with Labour's ruling council during an internal investigation, but no disciplinary action was taken.

Another complainant told Checkpoint he raised the alleged assault with the panel too, and at a face to face meeting with Mr Haworth after the panel sat.

Mr Haworth's resignation still leaves a pile of unanswered questions. Did he know about the sexual assault allegations or not? What did other senior Labour Party figures know? And what about the man who allegedly committed the assaults – what has happened with him?

Checkpoint spoke to Honey Heemi, one of the three Labour Party members who were on the investigation committee that heard directly from the complainants.

Initially she was adamant that no allegations of a sexual nature were raised with that investigating committee. But further into the interview, she says it was not in her scope to investigate a sexual assault

Ms Heemi says she doesn’t know what Nigel Haworth knew - because they never had that conversation.

But on Wednesday afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media: “The party has maintained its position that none of the complainants directly came to them claiming they had been sexually assaulted.”

That directly contradicts at least two complainants.

One, who spoke to Checkpoint says he raised allegations of sexual and physical assault with the investigation committee, other senior party members and directly with Nigel Haworth.

Checkpoint has seen a copy of an email sent from the complainant addressed to Nigel Haworth, expressing dissatisfaction at the investigation.

The email was sent on May 21, 2019 and it explicitly includes the words "predatory behaviour, sexual violence, and physical violence".

In accepting Mr Haworth's resignation the Ms Ardern said she too had seen correspondence from several months ago - between the complainants and the Labour Party - and that correspondence confirmed to her that the allegation made were "extremely serious".

At least two complainants say transcripts of the evidence they gave to Labour's investigation committee are inaccurate.

So who took the minutes at that meeting?

Simon Mitchell, a lawyer and northern representative on Labour's council, and one of the three on the investigation committee would not comment to Checkpoint.

In an email between Labour Party officials, under the heading ‘Who knows what’, there are several lists.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson is on the number one list of those in the know - but there's zero information about what exactly that means and if he knew about allegations of sexual assault.

Labour's Rongotai MP Paul Eagle also features on one of the ‘who knows’ lists. He says it’s not true.

As for the man at the centre of the sexual assault allegations, he's still employed at Parliament.