Complainant 'hugely disappointed' in lead Labour investigator's denial that sexual assault claims were raised

The complainant linked to sexual assault allegations against a Labour Party staffer says she is "hugely disappointed" that a lead Labour investigator says he wasn't told about sexual assault claims. 

The complainant, whose allegations of sexual assault were first made public by Newshub's Tova O'Brien on August 5, released a statement via her lawyer on Monday night. 

Her lawyer said the complainant maintains that she went into detail about sexual assault claims during a 9 March interview with a Labour Party panel that heard her case. 

But one of the lead members of the panel, lawyer Simon Mitchell, has called the complainants' statements that the panel was made aware of sexual assault allegations "untrue" and "not credible".

That's despite emails showing Mitchell was sent details of sexual assault allegations against a party staffer. Newshub reported this on 10 September, and the complainant has now released screenshots as evidence. 

The complainant says she has records of three emails she sent to Mitchell that she says proves he knew that she had raised sexual assault allegations with the Labour Party panellists. 

In one email addressed to Mitchell dated March 9 - the day she was interviewed by the panel - the complainant asked if "anyone had printer access" so that she could "read off of a timeline testimony" she had created. 

Newshub obtained the attached testimony and reported on it on September 10. It included details of the alleged sexual assault, and how the complainant felt in the aftermath of the incident. 

The complainant says there are two other emails that prove not only that Mitchell knew, but other members of the panel too. 

She says two other emails dated 26 April and 21 May were sent to two other members of the Labour Party investigative panel, including former Labour Party President Nigel Haworth, who resigned last week.

Lawyer Simon Mitchell.
Lawyer Simon Mitchell. Photo credit: Supplied

The complainant says those two emails drew the investigation panel's attention to the seriousness of the allegations, including the allegation of "rape". 

The complainant was told on 5 July by Haworth that no action would be taken following her allegations and a month later Newshub broke the story that Labour had been forced to review the investigation. 

The complainant was also not the only person who made allegations of a sexual nature. 

Seven party members and officials laid complaints this year accusing a senior Labour staffer of unacceptable behaviour ranging from bullying and intimidation to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Who knew what? 

Prime Minister and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said she visited the New Zealand Labour Council on 10 August, where the decision was made to appoint a QC, Maria Dew. 

Ardern maintains that at the time she was initially informed that the allegations raised were not sexual in nature and sought assurances about that - despite Newshub reporting that sexual assault claims had been made. 

Haworth resigned last week still maintaining he was never made aware of the complainant's sexual assault allegations. 

His resignation followed "correspondence" with Ardern who last week claimed she was only made aware of the sexual assault nature of the complaints after The Spinoff published details of it. 

PM and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and former Labour President Nigel Haworth.
PM and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and former Labour President Nigel Haworth. Photo credit: Newshub

Questions have been raised about who in Ardern's circle knew about the sexual assault claims and why they did not tell her, if that was the case. 

National's Paula Bennett, who says complainants went to her to be heard, said last week Ardern "absolutely knew there were sexual assault allegations against one of her staff members". 

She named senior Labour members in Parliament last Wednesday, including the PM's former chief of staff Mike Munro, alleging they knew about the sexual assault claims. 

Complainants have told Newshub that senior Labour minister Grant Robertson was told in person about the sexual assault allegations on 30 June at an event where the Prime Minister was also in attendance. 

Robertson has said he's "comfortable" with what he's done throughout the process.

What's happening now? 

The Labour staff member accused of bullying and sexual assault resigned from Parliament last Thursday, citing the "stress" of the situation, and "adamantly refuting" the allegations against him. 

The Prime Minister announced on Monday how she planned to make things right

She said QC Maria Dew had finalised the terms of reference for her investigation into the allegations made, but they will not be released because complainants have asked that they not be. 

As for Labour's handling of the complaints, Ardern said the party's lawyers Kensington Swan had nearly completed a piece of work on whether Labour behaved appropriately in the handling of the complaints.

That will now be handed over to an independent third party reviewer who will establish a statement of facts around the party process and what complaints were received. 

The Prime Minister also said an experienced victim advocate will be appointed to look at the findings and establish systems "so it does not happen again". 

She says she has offered through a third party to meet with the victims.