Labour's mishandling of sex assault complaints a political mess

by Jane Patterson / 14 March, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Labour

Jacinda Ardern wasn't informed of what happened at the Labour camp until it was raised by the media. Photo / Getty Images

Labour is in damage control mode.

No one disputes victims of sexual assault should be treated with respect and confidentiality, and offered the greatest level of support possible.

But the mess the highest ranks of the Labour Party have found themselves in is also about political management.

The party is now in full damage control with general secretary Andrew Kirton having fronted the bulk of the media requests, except for the Prime Minister appearing on her scheduled Tuesday morning spots.

Expect a higher-level response this afternoon as Labour goes into overdrive to show it acknowledges the woeful response in the weeks immediately following the February camp, and what it intends to do in the future.

When first alerted to serious acts of sexual assault against four 16-year-olds, Mr Kirton initially left it up to the youth wing of the party to deal with.

The upshot of that was a delay in communicating properly with the victims and bringing in professional support, just one of the failings in the way this has been dealt with.

Mr Kirton and other party officials made the call not to tell police or parents in the interests of the victims. He justified that approach by saying that was consistent with advice from specialist support agencies.

That advice was, however, received three weeks after he and other top-ranking officials - including the Party president - made no move to inform authorities or the Prime Minister.

Endorsement was then sought for the plan to "keep the circle small".

Mr Kirton's first approach to the sexual abuse support agency HELP was also only made the day after someone involved in the incident contacted Cabinet minister Megan Woods - in other words, once the circle was starting to widen.

Much has been made of whether parents had a right to know, whether police should have been contacted, and why Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was not informed.

The specialist advice is victims should decide who is told and whether they want to make a formal complaint, as bringing several people into the process can add to the trauma and stress.

Mr Kirton said they did not want to be "running around, telling a wide group of people". However, informing the Prime Minister of a major political controversy - or at the least, her Chief of Staff - would not fit into that category.

To the general public, the distinction of it being at Young Labour event or a party event as opposed to being connected to the parliamentary wing would be lost: the damage is to the Labour Party brand.

Ms Ardern, Mr Kirton and senior MPs also attended the camp and addressed the young people there, as shown by pictures that appeared on Young Labour's Facebook page.

Police have now launched an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault, which will bring greater focus onto how the event was run, and the way the whole situation was handled by Labour's top officials.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

Latest

Stormy Daniels could sink Trump faster than Robert Mueller – here's why
91456 2018-05-26 00:00:00Z World

Stormy Daniels could sink Trump faster than Robert…

by Paul Thomas

Scandal piles on scandal for President Donald Trump. But there's a view that Stormy Daniels poses more of a threat than the Russia investigation.

Read more
How to drink alcohol 'mindfully'
90452 2018-05-26 00:00:00Z Health

How to drink alcohol 'mindfully'

by Rosamund Dean

Some practical advice from Rosamund Dean’s game-changing plan to attain – still merry – self-restraint.

Read more
There's nothing to fear at Outward Bound – except for fear itself
91356 2018-05-26 00:00:00Z Travel

There's nothing to fear at Outward Bound – except …

by Lauren Buckeridge

The Outward Bound school at Anakiwa makes you stare fear in the face and conquer it. Lauren Buckeridge does just that.

Read more
Techweek: The mixed bag that is our fledgling gig economy
91500 2018-05-25 14:12:09Z Tech

Techweek: The mixed bag that is our fledgling gig …

by Peter Griffin

The gig economy isn’t yet proving a viable alternative for most people dreaming of being their own boss.

Read more
Could medicinal cannabis be a cash cow for our poorest regions?
91486 2018-05-25 11:51:26Z Business

Could medicinal cannabis be a cash cow for our poo…

by Max Towle

Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Enterprises wants to be front and centre in the medicinal cannabis industry.

Read more
Be like Mike: Lessons the National Party could learn from Hosking
91478 2018-05-25 07:42:51Z Politics

Be like Mike: Lessons the National Party could lea…

by Graham Adams

Leaders of the National Party come and go, but Mike Hosking endures. Simon Bridges could learn from him.

Read more
M bovis will cost $1 billion - no matter what the solution is
91474 2018-05-25 07:03:24Z Environment

M bovis will cost $1 billion - no matter what the …

by Eric Frykberg

Wrangling over what to do about the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is going down to the wire but whatever the solution, it's expected to cost $1b.

Read more
Ireland's abortion referendum:  what you need to know
91404 2018-05-25 00:00:00Z World

Ireland's abortion referendum: what you need to k…

by Claire Pierson

Ireland is holding a referendum later today that could dramatically change its stance on abortion. Here’s a rundown of what's happening and why.

Read more