12 Sep 2019

Labour assault complaints: Jacinda Ardern sets out when she knew details of allegations

12:23 pm on 12 September 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has held a last minute press conference at Parliament this morning as the pressure mounts over Labour Party sexual assault allegations.

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern speaking to reporters this morning. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

Ms Ardern is still facing questions about the handling of the allegations against a party staffer based at Parliament, after yesterday's sudden resignation of the party President Nigel Haworth.

This morning she reiterated that Monday was the first time she had seen evidence a complaint of a serious sexual assault had been taken to the party.

Yesterday she saw emails that confirmed in her mind that harm had been caused to the complainants through the process, she said.

"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,'' she said.

Five weeks ago when media first reported sexual assault allegations, Ms Ardern said she sought assurances from the Labour Party.

She said she was told by the party that "no complainant had come to them and claimed to them they'd been sexually assaulted''.

But on Monday there was a counter-claim when a 19-year-old Labour volunteer staffer outlined sexual assault allegations to the Spinoff, which Ms Ardern said she was now acting on.

Ms Ardern said her offer to meet with the complainants stands, and her office had extended that invitation through third-parties.

She said it was not a time-limited offer.

The man at the centre of the allegations is still employed at Parliament, but has been working off-site for a number of weeks.

Ms Ardern said she was taking advice about his employment status, keeping in mind there had been no complaints made to his employer, Parliamentary Service.

RNZ understands the man has quit all his elected positions within the Labour Party, and since early August has not been involved in any party related events or campaigns.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth stepped down yesterday after a conversation with Ms Ardern.

"I've come to the conclusion that regardless of the outcome of the appeal process into complaints about a Party member, fresh leadership will be required to take forward any recommendations from that process," he said in a statement.

Complainants issued a statement that said the resignation of Mr Haworth was a step "towards acknowledging that Labour has failed these survivors", but there was still much more work to do.

A QC review of Labour's internal investigation, and into various parties' knowledge of the seriousness of the allegations, is expected to be completed within the next three to four weeks.

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