A Labour list MP was asleep in her bed while four young people were sexually assaulted at Young Labour Camp, it has now been revealed.
The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said today that Liz Craig, an MP from Invercargill, was present at the camp near Waihi when the incident took place, but did not witness it.
According to the camp’s programme, Craig had given those attending the summer school a talk on dental health earlier that day.
Ardern said no blame should fall on Craig as other senior Labour Party people had been present at the event.
In a joint media conference with Ardern, Labour Party President Nigel Haworth announced that Wellington employment lawyer, Maria Berryman will head the inquiry into what happened at the camp and any other incidents that may have taken place in the past.
He said Berryman was very experienced in dealing with sexual assault issues.
When asked if “heads should roll” over the incident, Haworth said he was not stepping down and was not offering his resignation.
He also said that under-fire General Secretary Andrew Kirton’s job was safe.
“No one else is stepping down. Andrew is a first class General Secretary, one of the best we have ever had.”
Labour has moved into full damage control mode after the party’s bungled response to claims four young people were sexually assaulted at a Young Labour camp in February.
Today it suspended all future Young Labour events including summer camps.
Haworth, who had been largely silent on the issue, released a statement earlier today.
“As a result of the incidents at the Waihi Summer Camp we have taken the decision to immediately suspend all Young Labour events,” said Haworth.
“We need to take the time to properly review issues around how best to create the safest possible environment at all our events.
“A comprehensive external review will be undertaken by a respected independent person shortly working alongside the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network. This will review our policies and procedures in relation to these events including those by Labour’s sector groups, and also Waihi.
“The external expert will also be available for anyone who wishes to raise issues in relation to previous events.”
Haworth’s statement is taking account of a second allegation that surfaced yesterday.
Labour’s General Secretary Andrew Kirton said a woman had contacted him alleging she had been sexually assaulted at a different young Labour event several years ago.
Kirton said the woman had been offered counselling support and help going to police.
Earlier today police said they had begun an investigation into what had happened at the Waihi camp in February.
It is understood one of the young victims has now made a complaint.
This week Newsroom revealed that four Young Labour supporters – two males and two females – all aged 16 were assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a wild party on the second night of the camp. The man was intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people.
The camp took place between February 9 and 11 in the Karangahake Gorge near Waihi.
The offender was removed from the camp the next day and is said to be “highly embarrassed” by his actions.
The incident happened after the camp’s organiser, a Young Labour leader, had gone to bed.
Witnesses say there was a “mountain” of alcohol available even though many of those attending the event were under the age of 18.
The initial offers of support for those who had been assaulted was left up to the camp’s young leaders.
Today, Haworth said that was wrong.
“We put too heavy a responsibility on our Young Labour leaders to deal with the aftermath of these incidents and I apologise for that. We need to support them too,” said Haworth.
Haworth and Kirton decided to keep the Prime Minster in the dark over the incident on the basis the victims would be further traumatised if an increasing number of people knew what had happened.
“We decided not to expand the concentric circles of people who know about this, it can be very traumatic and embarrassing for those that are the victims of this … the advice I had is these young people need to make the choices themselves about who they tell.”
Kirton said this was the advice he had received from experts.
In her joint statement with Haworth today, Ardern said it was now very clear the Labour Party had failed its young supporters.
“Over the last days I have been making my own inquiries to fully understand what went wrong at the Waihi Summer Camp. I am also mindful of the second incident that has come to light,” Ardern said.
“It has become very clear to me the extent of our failure to both provide a safe environment for those young people at the Waihi Summer Camp and to properly deal with serious concerns raised by several attendees in relation to sexual misconduct and alcohol.
“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.
“Given that a complaint has now been laid with the police I cannot comment on the specifics, but I want to reiterate that we did not do the right thing fast enough in dealing with these incidents.
“Our young party members are our future. They work hard for our cause and we must ensure they can do so in a safe and supportive environment,” Ardern said.
Where to get help:
– Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (24/7), Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7), text free to 234 (8am-midnight) or live chat (7pm-11pm)
– Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54 (24/7; Kidsline Buddies available 4pm-9pm)- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 TAUTOKO / 0508 828 865 (24/7)
– What’s Up: 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 942 8787 (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends) or live chat (5pm-10pm)- Healthline: 0800 611 116 (24/7)
– Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)- Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 or text free to 4202 (24/7)- If you feel you or someone you know is at immediate risk, call 111.
– 1737 Need to talk? – a brand-neutral front door for anyone to access support from a trained counsellor. People can call and text 1737