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Labour abuse allegations investigator hires computer expert

Article – RNZ

One of the people who investigated complaints about a Labour staffer has hired a forensic computer expert to prove he was never told about sexual assault allegations.Labour abuse allegations investigator brings in computer expert

Craig McCulloch, Deputy Political Editor

One of the people who investigated complaints about a Labour staffer has hired a forensic computer expert to prove he was never told about sexual assault allegations.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Lawyer Simon Mitchell issued a statement via his legal team to RNZ today, doubling-down on the Labour Party position that the complainants never raised allegations of sexual assault.

Mr Mitchell, along with Honey Heemi and Tracey McLellan, was tasked with investigating seven formal complaints to Labour about the behaviour of a male staffer.

The party’s handling of the complaints came under intense scrutiny last week after The Spinoff reported that a 19-year-old volunteer, which it called “Sarah”, had told the panel the staffer attacked her – and yet no action was taken.

But in a statement, Mr Mitchell told RNZ the woman said no such thing when she addressed the panel on 9 March.

“She read from a document when taking us through her concerns. She did not provide us with a copy of that document,” he said.

“At no point did she say that she had been sexually assaulted or tell us about the events that are described in the Spinoff article.”

The Spinoff reported that those pre-interview notes – which were emailed to Labour assistant general secretary Dianna Lacy and printed off – contained a clear account of a sexual assault.

But Mr Mitchell said he had since seen a copy of the document sent to Ms Lacy and confirmed it contained none of those details.

He said the complainant also failed to mention the alleged assault when he met her a second time on 29 May “to clarify the allegations”.

Mr Mitchell said the woman promised to send more detailed information in the next few days.

“On 11 June 2019, the complainant sent me an email with three attachments including what she refers to as her testimony.

“Neither the testimony, nor the other attachments, contain any reference to a sexual assault on her.”

Mr Mitchell said he had since had his computer system “forensically examined” which confirmed his account of events.

The 19-year-old volunteer is reported in The Spinoff as being “adamant” that she provided allegations of sexual assault to the Labour Party both in person and in written testimony.

The whole process is now under review by Maria Dew QC who will report directly to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Former party president Nigel Haworth has repeatedly stated that the claims were not provided to the investigation panel and he was not told about them at a prior meeting.

Mr Haworth resigned from his position last week after Ms Ardern said she had seen correspondence which suggested mistakes had been made.

The man at the centre of the allegations resigned his job at Parliament last week, but issued a statement, insisting he was innocent of the claims and would co-operate with the new review.

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