8 Sep 2016

Chiefs criticised for 'in-house' investigation

8:52 am on 8 September 2016

An investigation into claims a stripper was abused at the Chiefs' end-of-season function has been criticised as lacking impartiality.


The investigation centred around a Chiefs' function at the Ōkoroire Hot Pools. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The woman, known as Scarlette, said some players groped her, threw gravel and swore at her at her while she performed at the rugby team's end of season function on 1 August at the Ōkoroire Hot Pools, near Matamata.

The New Zealand Rugby said those claims were contradicted by independent witnesses not connected to the team, and it decided not to take further action, other than giving the team a collective warning.

Police earlier said they would not be taking the matter further and no charges were laid.

Sexual assault victims advocate, Louise Nicholas, said the rugby union made the wrong move by employing its own in-house lawyer to conduct the investigation.

"They should've stepped outside the square and said 'OK, in order to get to the bottom of what is actually happening in these allegations, we bring in someone who is absolutely independent of us all,' that's what should have happened," she said.

"And if the outcome was the same, cool, everyone would have said 'Well this person has done the investigation, they're not involved in the union, they're not involved with the woman,' but no, they bought in their own counsel."

07092016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. New Zealand Rugby will not take action against individuals but has cautioned the Chiefs after investigating allegations players abused a woman performing as a stripper. NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew

Steve Tew said he had put an enormous amount of effort into the investigation. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said there was no reason to question the integrity of the investigation.

"I've put into this piece of work an enormous amount of energy and personal effort from our general counsel, who is a very senior legal practitioner.

"He has interviewed people in confidence who have shared with him exactly what they believed to have taken place, and that's what's bought us to the conclusions we have made," he said.

Mr Tew told Morning Report today that NZ Rugby had been up front.

"We were not attempting to put this under a cloud, we've been incredibly transparent, we've published the recommendations and we've run a press conference, and we've openly said our players made a mistake and they've let themselves, their fans, their supporters and ourselves down very badly."

Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol said one of the big things to come out of the investigation was that management needed to be more aware of what was being organized.

"The caution that the players have received have made it very clear that it's completely unacceptable for professional rugby players to engage these types of performances."

In a written statement, Scarlette said she was disappointed with the outcome of the investigation, but not surprised.

The company 'Strippers R Us', who Scarlette used to have a listing with, also said the outcome was expected.

Its managing director, Rachael Kirk, said it was always going to be a "she said", "they said" situation.

She also questioned the investigation.

"I do question that it was all the team, all their management and their lawyers against one girl.

"I don't believe for a second that none of it happened [to Scarlette] because I've seen where things can go before in that situation. One random girl in a group of guys who have been drinking for hours."

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