Police are likely to reopen their investigation into former National MP Andrew Falloon after more women came forward to Judith Collins' office, the Leader of the Opposition says.
Falloon resigned as an MP on Tuesday morning effective immediately after it emerged on Monday evening that he had allegedly sent inappropriate images to a young woman. He previously said he would resign at the election, but Collins put pressure on him to leave now.
Later on Tuesday, ahead of the National Party caucus meeting, Collins said two more women had come forward to her. There was a "pattern of behaviour", she said.
"I have spoken to police. Police, in light of the new information, have advised me that they are likely to reopen their first investigation and I have also spoken to them about the safety of Andrew Falloon and they are taking the matter very seriously," she said.
On Monday, police said they had earlier launched an investigation "after receiving a report of an individual sending an unsolicited image [and] the investigation determined it did not meet the threshold for prosecution".
Newshub has contacted police for comment.
Collins said she was "absolutely appalled" by what she was hearing from members of the public. The images sent were of a pornographic nature, she said.
"I am sorry to say I believe we are going to have more women come forward if I have had two already into the office this morning. There will be more and I have certainly had indications from people that they know of more."
She said any other women who had received similar images from Falloon should contact police directly.
Collins said Falloon had lied to her.
"He lied because, when we asked for any other information that we needed to have, he did not give us any of that information."
There were reports on Monday night that Falloon had claimed he left his phone alone and the images were sent to the woman by acquaintances.
"His story had changed already because it had been investigated by police where he had had a story around how this was apparently an accident and the police were able to show that it wasn't... but then when asked if there was any other incidents, no this was the only one, it now turns out there were many other."
The leader believes he has lied to police.
"I believe he has lied to a lot of people, probably including himself."
She said that on Tuesday morning she spoke to the first woman to complain.
"[The young woman] is very grateful that both the Prime Minister and myself have taken this issue very seriously. She is grateful we have dealt with the issue and she certainly came across to me as a very, very nice young woman who is appalled by what has happened, as am I."
The woman first contacted the Prime Minister's Office, which then reached out to Collins' office on Friday night. The leader was alerted to the issue on Saturday and has defended the length of time it took to deal with Falloon.
Collins told media on Tuesday she didn't believe it was appropriate to discuss these issues with Falloon via text or email. Instead, she wanted to speak to him face-to-face, which she did on Monday.
"I had to confront Andrew Falloon face-to-face... he advised me of significant mental health issues which I took seriously, as I would have to do, and he announced at that stage that we was resigning as at the election.
"Since then, his story has changed somewhat quite significantly. More people have come forward to advise me that they have also receivied similar communications, unwelcome and uncalled for communications from Andrew Falloon."
Collins continues to believe Falloon has serious mental health issues and is now receiving assistance. The Rangitata MP was escorted by the party's whips from Wellington to his home, "a point of safety".
She also defended Monday's press releases which emphasised Falloon's mental health issues but made no mention of the allegedly indecent images.
"If someone is sitting in my office and telling me they have a serious mental health condition for which they have been receiving treatment, I will take it seriously. I was very deeply concerned for the welfare of the young woman involved. But I was also deeply concerned with the safety of Andrew Falloon. He is still a human being and I have to take those issues seriously."
She also wanted to protect the young woman's privacy.
Collins said there was a section of society where alcohol and pornography was an issue.
"The National Party is part of society. We, like any other organisation, will have people who fail those tests. The problem is, we don't always know about it until afterwards.
"My understanding is that nobody else here, none of the other MPs, knew what was actually going on and it is certainly an issue that I will be taking up with the caucus today about the expected behaviour.
"This is a professional work environment. I expect everybody here to be safe and I expect that everybody we communicate and deal with should be safe."
Collins became the leader on Tuesday evening after Todd Muller resigned, citing health reasons. On Thursday, high-profile MPs Nikki Kaye and Amy Adams also resigned. The week before, Hamish Walker was forced to quit after leaking private COVID-19 patient data to the media.
The leader said on Tuesday that she would be telling caucus that "they need to come and see me if there is anything they need to disclose, straight away".
"As to resignations, we can never guarantee that somebody won't have a family situation or health situation. I have no problem with the resignations of people such as Amy Adams or Nikki Kaye. They are entirely expected in the circumstances and they have our absolute sincerest best wishes."
Where to find help and support:
- Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
- Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
- Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
- What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757