21 Sep 2022

Sam Uffindell's accusers happy for report on MP's conduct to be made public

9:12 am on 21 September 2022
Sam Uffindell

A former Otago University student and her father are standing by their claims about Sam Uffindell's bullying behaviour. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

National MP Sam Uffindell's former flatmate and her father are happy for Maria Dew KC's report to be publicly released, in redacted form.

Uffindell was returned to his party's caucus this week after leader Christopher Luxon said the inquiry cleared him of bullying behaviour beyond his boarding school years.

The Tauranga MP was stood down after a former flatmate told RNZ he was an aggressive bully at Otago University; once pounding on her bedroom door, yelling, until she fled through her window.

Dew's independent inquiry into the incident "did not substantiate any allegations of bullying outside of Sam's time at King's College", party president Sylvia Wood said on Monday.

National says the report found Uffindell "did not engage" in the behaviour his former flatmate detailed on RNZ last month - which prompted the inquiry.

That included dismissing her claims he bashed on her door yelling obscenities and smashed up the flat through violent behaviour.

But the woman and her father stand firmly by her account of what happened at the flat, and are deeply unhappy Uffindell's word was taken over hers.

She had originally said she fled to her friend's house but later said she ran to the library where she called her father, who put her up in a motel for the night.

The woman gave a written statement during the inquiry but did not participate further, believing it to be a political snow job - bought and paid for by the National Party.

Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon says an independent and fair process has seen MP Sam Uffindell cleared. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Luxon has stressed the process has been independent and fair but will not release the report, its terms of reference or an executive summary, citing confidentiality.

He told Morning Report the party had run its formal statements on the matter past Dew before releasing them on Monday, to ensure they were "a faithful communication" of her report, "while also respecting the sensitivities and confidentiality involved".

"We've communicated the findings of the report through our statements and we've done so without breaching the confidentiality the participants agreed to."

He would not be drawn on the former flatmate's level of engagement with the investigation.

"I'm not going to get into who did or didn't engage ... Maria Dew made a process and we made it very available for people to be able to come forward."

The former flatmate's father said both he and his daughter were happy for the report to be shared publicly in redacted form, with the names of the 14 participants anonymised.

The father made a point of saying if Uffindell had nothing to hide he would not need his name redacted, given the report apparently cleared him of any wrongdoing.

He told RNZ he did not have a vested interest in the MP's political future but felt the party had wrongly and unnecessarily painted his daughter a liar.

Luxon is defending the party's approach, saying he "absolutely" believed he had struck the right balance between confidentiality and transparency.

"I've gone off and said look we understood the King's College incident but the reality is the new incident and what happened from there I wanted to have an independent investigation.

"I think we've done that incredibly well with a clear set of outcomes and I've represented that very faithfully through our statements."

He told Morning Report the investigation had been paid for by the National Party but insisted it was independent.

"Maria Dew is a respected King's Counsel, she's the best in this country at doing this kind of work ... she's impartial, she's professional, she's an expert in this area."

Luxon said beyond what happened at King's College and "the interaction with the flatmate", no one had come forward during the course of the investigation to indicate they "considered themselves a victim of Sam's behaviour".

"On that basis, I have confidence that he's a reformed and changed character from the individual and teenager that he was."

He said Uffindell had spoken about and was "genuinely remorseful" for the King's College incident and people deserved second chances.

"This would be a very empty place in Parliament if you have to have a perfect past to be able to come here."

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