It feels like Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party have been hung drawn and quartered when it comes time to discussing the sexual assault allegations. But was there a rush to judgment?
I mean I can understand the relative motivations. From the left is the realisation that we have significant problems with sexual violence and we need to do better. And from the right there has been this salivating realisation that they could really hurt us. Just see the regular outpourings by Paula Bennett or the hysterical mutterings of Matthew Hooton if you need evidence.
Labour’s Council member Simon Mitchell, who is a very experienced and adept lawyer, has made a public statement which directly contradicts the essence of some of the allegations that have been made.
From Andrea Vance at Stuff:
The lawyer that led Labour’s investigation into the conduct of a parliamentary staffer says he wasn’t told of sexual assault claims.
Simon Mitchell, an Auckland employment and family law specialist, issued a statement through his own lawyers on Monday.
Mitchell says that “at no point” did a young volunteer tell him, or the panel, that she was sexually assaulted.
And he says he had his computer “forensically analysed” to prove it.
The allegation is that the committee of which he was a member has ignored the sexual attack complaint even though he and they were told about it.
A letter from Mitchell’s lawyer Penny Swarbrick to Stuff says: “Mr Mitchell is gravely concerned at allegations that he was the recipient of verbal and written disclosures of a sexual assault by the subject of the investigation … regrettably the statements by the complainant that Mr Mitchell received such information are untrue.”
The letter also says that claims the woman provided documentation in emails to the panel are “not credible”.
Mitchell says the woman emailed on [March 9,2019, the day of the first interview] to say she planned to read from a document and asked for it to be printed off. The email had no attachment, Mitchell says.
Mitchell asked her to contact assistant general secretary Dianna Lacy “who I am told printed a copy and gave it to the complainant”. He says he was never given a copy.
“I have subsequently (last week) been given a copy … and it does not contain any details of the sexual assault against her,” he said.
He goes on to say that she never raised the sexual assault allegations at the interview.
The article then says this:
Mitchell met again with the woman on May 29 “to clarify the allegations and the matters that we were investigating,” his statement says.
“At no time during that meeting did she say that she had been sexually assaulted by the subject of the complaint… at the conclusion of the meeting she said that she would provide me with more detailed information in the next few days.”
In June, she sent an email with three attachments, but none refer to sexual assault, he says.
So to recap:
I know Simon quite well. He is very experienced and sharp.
I am expressing no opinion about the veracity of the claim itself. I am aware that these situations are very complex and non disclosure is the norm. And human beings will not necessarily get things right when they are trying to retrieve the details of conversations that happened six months earlier.
There will be a formal inquiry by Maria Dew QC. There will be secrecy as to the terms of reference at the requests of the complainants and the details of the result will not necessarily be disclosed. This has not stopped the usual suspects from going into conspiracy mode.
I suspect this story has some way to go still. Particularly given Paula Bennett’s approach to the issue. Call me old fashioned but using Parliamentary Privilege to smear senior staffers and make allegations they are not able to reply to is not what I would call a victim focussed approach.