Labour Party inquiry: Investigation finds alleged victim's events not established

The inquiry into a former Labour Party staffer's alleged sexual assault has found the claims cannot be established, citing inconsistencies of the alleged victim's events.

Labour Party President Claire Szabo says the investigation's findings are "clear" that the most serious allegations, those of sexual assault, were not established - and neither were allegations of sexual harassment. 

"Some allegations that related to overbearing and aggressive conduct were found to be established, but were found to not meet the threshold of unlawful bullying."

The Labour Party commissioned an independent investigation by QC Maria Dew into the allegations following the party's own botched internal probe. 

Labour's handling of the investigation led to the resignation of former party president Nigel Haworth, who eventually apologised and acknowledged that it should never have been handled by the party. 

Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern said it's now time to "draw a line in the sand and to try and get back to best practice because that hasn't been the case here". 

The accused former staffer has since resigned from Parliament, citing the "stress" of the situation, and "adamantly refuting" the allegations against him. 

But Dew's conclusion is that the investigation "did not find any misconduct or serious misconduct that would warrant disciplinary action against the former staffer".  

Dew's report says, "The allegation of sexual assault made by [one of the alleged victims] against the respondent is not established."

An assault was alleged to have occurred in February 2018 at the former staffer's home. However, the report says there is "insufficient evidence" that the events occurred as alleged by the complainant.  

"Her evidence was incorrect in several critical respects in relation to the events of that evening."

The investigation also found that the alleged victim and the former staffer had been in a consensual personal relationship for some eight months by February 2018.

"Her allegation was also inconsistent with her own numerous contemporaneous Facebook messages with the respondent during that month and in surrounding months."

The complainant has also accepted that she had "provided misleading information to the investigation". 

It relates to an email she sent to the party panel investigating her claims, which she said had attachments detailing the alleged sexual assault. Members of the panel denied ever seeing the attachments. 

According to Dew's investigation, those emails to the Labour Party committee investigating her claims did not receive the attachments. 

It also says the remainder of her evidence about reporting the allegation orally in her 9 March 2019 investigation committee interview is "rejected as improbable when assessed against the weight of other witness evidence to the contrary". 

Dew has recommended that the accused former staffer be advised that his conduct did not meet the expectations of courtesy and respect required by the Code of Conduct. 

She has also recommended that an introduction process is provided to all Young Labour members, and that a designated senior party official is assigned as a contact person for each Young Labour branch.

"The respondent has accepted from the outset of this investigation that, at times, his conduct has been too overbearing and aggressive at some meetings," the report says. 

"He has also acknowledged that he made three separate comments of a sexual nature to three female complainants at different times.

"The respondent also accepts that he acted inappropriately by becoming aggressive and causing disruption at a youth branch Christmas party in December 2018."

Szabo, who was recently voted in as Labour's new president, said: "The matters raised by the complainants were serious and need to be treated accordingly.

"It is critical that the Labour Party is a safe place for all our members and volunteers, especially young people.... Regardless of the findings from Maria Dew, the Party's previous processes failed everybody and have taken a toll on all involved."

Two further reports, one examining the Labour Party's handling of the complaints and another that recommends how the party improves its processes for managing such matters in the future, are close to being completed. 

"The party will use these reports in the new year to support internal reflection and make any further changes needed to ensure such matters are handled appropriately in the future," Szabo said. 

"I want to acknowledge the discomfort and distress these matters have caused a number of our people, particularly the complainants the respondent, and their families."

The allegations of sexual assault were first made public by Newshub's Tova O'Brien on August 5. Newshub revealed Labour had been forced to review its internal investigation into the claims. 

Dew's report says allegations have been made by five complainants in total, four female and one male, who were all members of the Labour Party during 2017 and 2018. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips: