Appeal process for alleged Labour Party staffer victims may be too little, too late - victims' advocate

The Labour Party's decision to establish an independent appeal process for people allegedly sexually assaulted by a party member may be too little, too late, according to a victims' advocate.

On Monday, the Labour Party announced that people who claim to have been sexually assaulted, bullied and harassed by a party member will be able to appeal the findings of the original investigation.

Earlier this month, Newshub revealed the party was forced to review its internal investigation process after complaints it was botched and retraumatised alleged victims. Four people have resigned from party roles as a result.

The original claims were investigated in March and no disciplinary action was taken. While the investigation's processes were reviewed, the outcome was not. 

The appeal process will be conducted by an "independent and experienced expert" who will determine the terms of reference, according to the party.

But victims' advocate Ruth Money says alleged victims may still find it difficult.

"Once again we have found that we have to agitate through the media to get the pressure to make sure that survivors are heard and are getting a fair deal," she told Newshub.

"It is natural for survivors to find any process difficult, so this far after the fact, it will certainly be challenging to make sure they are all engaged".

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth said including an independent expert would help build trust.

"I expect the Labour Party to provide a welcoming and safe environment for all our members, volunteers and supporters, and the Council’s decision reinforces our expectation," he said.

"The complainants asked for an appeal process to be put in place, this decision acknowledges their concern. Ensuring the appeal is done by an independent expert who is at arm's length from the party is important for building trust in the process in the future."

But Money says the devil will be in the detail.

"I think it comes down to who that independent expert is. If they aren't trauma-informed and they truly aren't a survivor expert, I think we'll have problems," she told Newshub.

Haworth says "reasonable financial support" will be provided to those involved in the appeal process "to ensure that they are able to obtain appropriate legal advice as the process proceeds".

"Personal and emotional support, independent of the party, will also be provided to any person participating in the appeal process."