'The justice system has failed me': Labour camp assault victim speaks up

'The justice system has failed me': Labour camp assault victim speaks up

The victim of an assault at a Young Labour camp in 2018 has spoken out in anger after the name-suppressed defendant was discharged without conviction. 

The victim posted a message on social media expressing disappointment at the judicial system, saying he's now "lost all faith" in it. "We have a problem in this country," he said in the post. 

"Not because we aren't willing to lock up and throw away the key, not because we have too much readily available alcohol or drugs or whatever you think you can blame sexual assault on. This isn't the issue. 

"We have a problem because we are not willing to actually address the root cause. A long engrained culture where these actions can be defended not only by the perpetrator but even the judicial system itself."

The 21-year-old man accused of assault went to trial earlier this year facing multiple allegations of sexual assault at the summer camp which took place near Waihi in February 2018. 

The man faced five counts of indecent assault relating to four people - two men and two women - but he managed to reach a plea deal. 

He pleaded guilty to two charges of common assault relating to the two men, while the charges against the two women were dropped. 

The victim who is speaking out says he's outraged that the accused was able to walk away without conviction at the Auckland District Court on Thursday. 

Judge Russell Collins said the gravity of the offending was low. 

The August trial revealed the 21-year-old was accused of groping a woman, kissing another woman, squeezing a man's testicles, and touching another man's genitals. 

"I'm not convinced it was for sexual gratification or any perverted motive," the judge said, adding that it seemed his actions were "born out of drunken stupidity". 

The victim said the judge's ruling reflects "why we have a culture of sexual assault". 

"This is why we have young men who are willing to go around and do what they want without any consideration of others... The justice system has failed me."

Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern promised to personally investigate the allegations when they were raised in early 2018. 

Labour's general secretary at the time Andrew Kirton said the party was "deeply sorry" that the assaults were allowed to happen.

The defendant's lawyer said during the trial earlier this year that his client was always prepared to take responsibility for assault but not sexual assault. 

He said his client had got caught up in a "political storm" and had faced enormous pressure since the incident. 

The victim suggested the accused got off too easy. 

He alleged that the four original charges of indecent assault were reduced to "please the defence enough for the defendant to plead guilty". 

In April, the victim spoke out against Labour when Newshub revealed the party had been forced to review an internal investigation into separate sexual assault allegations against a now ex-Labour staffer.

"As a victim of the Young Labour Summer Camp sexual assaults, I can honestly say the party never took the process of changing their policies seriously," he said at the time. 

The findings of an investigation into Labour's handling of the sexual assault allegations against the ex-Labour staffer are still pending.

Labour's handling of those allegations led to the resignation of former party president Nigel Haworth.

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