All the key dates and critical communications between Sarah* and the Labour Party – including unambiguous references to ‘sexual assault’ from the complainant.
Jacinda Ardern has declared herself “deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated” over the allegations levelled at a Labour staffer as well as the party investigation into the man, who remains employed by the Labour leader’s office and denies wrongdoing.
The party president says he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”.
The prime minister says she had been assured that no complainant alleged sexual assault or violence. She says the first she learned of the nature of the allegations that Sarah (a pseudonym) insists she raised repeatedly with the Labour Party, was upon reading the Spinoff’s investigation published on Monday.
A crucial question is whether the Labour Party’s position, that it was not informed of the allegations, is tenable. Just as important is whether its process – for example in repeatedly failing to meet complainants’ requests to review the summaries of their oral evidence – is defensible.
Below, an incomplete chronology, based on public statements and numerous documents provided to The Spinoff.
The incident at the home of the staffer takes place, according to Sarah, as described in this feature.
Newsroom reports complaints about the handling of allegations relating to a Labour Youth Summer Camp, which had been held in February in Waihi.
Labour announces a review into the Summer Camp allegations, to be conducted by Maria Berryman.
“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that. It’s not good enough, we let them down,” says Jacinda Ardern. “We handled this very, very badly as a party.”
Labour Party President Nigel Haworth invites anyone with other complaints to bring them forward. “I want this to be a safe party where everyone can go to any event and be sure they won’t be harassed or subjected to any of this treatment. It is utterly unacceptable.”
Sarah raises concerns about the behaviour of the man at the centre of the allegations for the first time in writing – having previously discussed with fellow party members – in an email to Maria Berryman.
Nigel Haworth writes to Young Labour members to “explain what the party has been doing in recent weeks”. He adds: “The NZ Council has determined that it will do all that it can to ensure the party is safe and inclusive in future,” and urges anyone concerned to contact him.
Sarah emails Haworth in response to the above, alleging “predatory behaviour” on the part of the individual, and asking whom to contact.
The Berryman report is provided to senior Labour members but not published. Recommendations include introducing a new open process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with appropriate specialist advice.
A Labour Party official contacts Sarah to set up a meeting to discuss her complaints, stemming from her email to Haworth.
Sarah meets the official and Haworth at the Wellington Central Library. Sarah, by her account, outlines the allegation of sexual assault. Howarth disputes this.
The New Zealand Council, Labour’s governing body, meets to assess whether an investigation should take place. It agrees that it should, and appoints a three-person “sub-committee” to investigate alleged misconduct. All three are members of Labour’s NZ Council.
A party official emails complainants advising that a sub-committee has been appointed.
Complainants receive written notification that interviews will take place on March 9.
Interviews are held with what is thought to be seven complainants at Fraser House, Labour’s base on Willis Street, Wellington.
An hour before her interview, Sarah emails the investigating panel chair, writing, “I want to be able to read off of a timeline and testimony I’ve created. Would someone be able to print this before my interview?” In a screenshot viewed by The Spinoff, there are two documents attached. One is titled “To print, sexual assault”. Labour says he received no attachments.
The panel chair emails Sarah asking her to send the documents to a party official who is providing access to the building. She does so. According to Sarah, four copies of the documents were printed and placed on the table where the interview took place. Sarah goes through the document, explaining her experience, including the alleged sexual assault. The panelists dispute that they heard such allegations.
Sarah emails the panel seeking “an update on the investigation”. She writes: “Just adding the seriousness of the situation here, an accusation of sexual assault, manipulation, bullying and emotional abuse.”
Having had no reply to the previous email, she emails again, forwarding the previous correspondence, asking “are we able to get a response?” and saying she is concerned “given his continued approaches to the members who’ve spoken on behalf of this investigation”.
A member of the panel responds three hours later acknowledging receipt but not offering any update.
Nigel Haworth writes to complainants advising that the investigation will be concluding in the coming days, with a report to be finalised and sent to the NZ Council, which will consider its recommendations at a meeting on June 15.
One complainant responds, concerned about the paucity of information provided since their interviews. The process has been “completely unacceptable”, he writes. “While this investigation was ongoing (which involved elements of predatory behaviour, sexual violence and physical violence) he was allowed to [provide] swipe card access for a Young Labour event at parliament … It is like the party has learned nothing in the wake of the Young Labour summer school”.
Another, Sarah, responds separately, writing in an email to Haworth and the investigating panel: “Are we able to see a confirmation [of] testimonies that are being handed to [inquiry subject] and his legal team? At least my own script from meetings?” And: “Are we able to see the full report before you share the details to all of NZC?”
She writes: “Forgive me for being panicked, I’m just completely lost at the lack of communication… to now being told the investigation report had been completed.” She reiterates unequivocally that the allegations include sexual assault.
Sarah writes again to the members of the panel, copying Haworth, to agree to a meeting to “clarify the allegations and the matters that the party is investigating”, adding: “but the question still stands, am I able to see a confirmation of the testimonies that are being handed to [the respondent] and his legal team? At least my own script from meetings? … Not really keen to continue to provide all this information if it’s not being checked, we’re not sure who’s seeing it, and it’s being handed to [NZ Council] without follow up … The process we’ve ended up with is retraumatising so many people.”
The chair of the panel writes to Sarah, saying: “I am happy to provide a copy of your notes.”
Sarah emails the three panel members asking again for the notes from her interview. She also sends them “my notes of testimony”. Her attached notes include clear and repeated references to her own “sexual assault” in February 2018.
The NZ Council meeting considers the report of the investigating committee, and approves its recommendation of no disciplinary action.
Nigel Haworth writes to complainants to say that at the last meeting NZ Council “received and endorsed a report from the investigating panel. The recommendation was that no disciplinary action be taken in this case.”
He advises that there is no appeal process in the party constitution, but “this does not, of course, preclude an approach to Council in relation to queries that arise following the investigation”.
He says they will today receive “the transcript of your statement to the investigating panel. I recognise that this is important for all of you.” No such transcripts appear to have ever existed. The handwritten notes that were taken are not provided for another 10 days to one complainant, and a further eight days later to another.
The Labour party general secretary, Andre Anderson, writes to complainants advising that the process of the inquiry will be reviewed by the party solicitor. It will “be limited solely to procedural matters” and “not reinvestigate whether misconduct took place” nor involve fresh interviews. That will mean sharing with him “the information that you provided to the investigating committee when you were interviewed”.
After that review is complete, “NZ Council will then be able to make an informed decision regarding any further steps”.
He adds: “I understand that the investigating committee may now have sent you the written record of your interview. If not we will send it to you on Monday [July 16].”
He says the staffer has been asked to “stay away from Fraser House”, and asks that complainants “stay away from Bowen House (not just from the leader’s office)”.
A Labour Party official sends Sarah her “testimony”. “With the caveat that we have not yet been able to establish whether this was the exact version that the respondent saw.”
There is no reference in the handwritten, abbreviated notes to any allegation by Sarah of sexual assault.
Another of the complainants receives their testimony from the party.
The first news of the allegations and the inquiry is broken by Newshub. Tova O’Brien reports: “Newshub can reveal the Labour Party has been forced to review an internal investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer. It follows complaints the investigation process was botched and traumatising for the alleged victims. At least four people have resigned from official party roles and cancelled their membership as a result.”
On an unknown date in early August, Jacinda Ardern is given a “heads up” over the complaints made to the Labour Party in relation to the individual. At this point, she will later tell media, she asks whether there are any complaints involving allegations that are “sexual in nature or physical in nature”. She is “advised that they are not”.
Jacinda Ardern says of the review: “This has been a test of whether or not we’ve now learnt from [the Summer Camp scandal] and the party is taking a good look at whether we’ve satisfied the natural process of justice and whether or not we’ve supported the complainants as we should have.”
Paula Bennett reveals a Beehive staffer has approached her to protest Labour’s handling of complaints in the case.
A spokesperson for the prime minister responds: “To the best of our knowledge, the issues raised by Ms Bennett have not been raised with us, Parliamentary or Ministerial Services.”
Jacinda Ardern attends a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, where she “expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way [the inquiry] had been handled by the Labour Party”. She “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault.”
Nigel Haworth issues a statement announcing the establishment of an “independent appeals process” to be conducted by an unnamed “independent and experienced expert”.
Nigel Haworth emails complainants in the investigation, saying “Council decided it was appropriate you be offered the opportunity to appeal”, providing a nine-day deadline for opting in.
The 21-year-old man facing allegations of sexual assault at the Labour Party summer camp agrees a plea deal, which sees the sexual allegations dropped and guilty pleas in relation to two amended charges of assault.
Stuff reports that complainants and witnesses in the case had been “barred from parliament offices”.
The Spinoff publishes a 4,000 word investigative feature detailing Sarah’s experience, headlined: “A Labour volunteer alleged a violent sexual assault by a Labour staffer. This is her story.”
A statement from Nigel Haworth provided to the Spinoff includes the following: “It’s important to be clear that none of the complaints the party investigated related to sexual assault. The person leading the original review made it clear to the complainants that the party would never be the appropriate body to handle allegations of that nature and that they would need to be investigated by the police.”
At her weekly Beehive press conference, Jacinda Ardern fields several questions on the issue. “I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she says. “I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”
She says the individual has not been on the parliamentary precinct for five weeks. She refuses to express confidence in Haworth, stressing that she wishes to wait for the fresh inquiry to be completed. Maria Dew QC will report directly to her, she says.
political & climate reportersFind Out More
The lawyer acting for the Labour staffer contacts The Spinoff saying the “serious claims” made about his client are “without foundation”, that the man has “agreed to cooperate fully” with the QC-led inquiry, and legal action may follow.
An “open letter to the prime minister” is circulated within the party by “Me Too Labour”, an unnamed “group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations” surrounding the staffer. It makes a series of demands including the resignation of Haworth. The letter, which The Spinoff has verified originates from party members, had by lunchtime attracted more than 100 signatures.
Nigel Haworth tells media he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”. In a statement, he reiterates his position that “the serious allegation of a sexual assault, outlined in The Spinoff article and in other media, was not provided to the president and acting general secretary at a meeting in the Wellington Central Library or subsequently to the Labour Party investigation panel.”
Sarah tells The Spinoff she is adamant her account is accurate. Of the Labour Party, she says: “Standing by a process you know is flawed, a process you know retraumatised and put further young women at risk, is cowardly.”