Former Prime Minister Helen Clark has called on the board of law firm Russell McVeagh to resign in the wake of the sexual assaults and misconduct against women interns.

Clark told Newsroom the board should resign and also tweeted Thursday night: 

“Sexual assaults at one of #NZ’s biggest law firms have shocked the country. Dame Margaret Bazley has delivered a damning report on the workplace practice & culture which made it possible. Question is: why hasn’t #RussellMcVeagh’s Board resigned? Fresh start is imperative.”

Clark was Prime Minister when Bazley was appointed to investigate the culture and practices of the police department after a group of officers was jailed last decade for historic sexual assaults.

She told Newsroom she was “absolutely shocked” that this behaviour could have been tolerated. “Let’s be clear it was widely known about in that law firm. Now, like women the world over [they] have been scared to come forward because it will affect their future and Russell McVeagh have been a leading New Zealand law firm. It’s been prestigious to be recruited.

“Put simply, after being recruited people have put up with what has been dished out and that’s not good enough, really the whole board should resign. They should take responsibility.

“It’s absolutely atrocious what’s come out in the Bazley inquiry.”

Clark said there was “no better person for the job” than Bazley, who dealt with the major review into the police after the Louise Nicholas case and is no stranger to speaking on wider issues relating to sexual violence cases.

“The problem with women making complaints of sexual attack is that when they appear in court they become victimised again because their reputation is ripped apart so that puts a lot of people off going all the way.

“When you look at what Louise Nicholas went through to get there because these men, their defence has been to trash her but that’s been the defence of every sexual violent offender.”

Speaking to Newsroom, Louise Nicholas said the report was fundamentally good for progress and an opportunity for Russell McVeagh to set an example. 

“The stress and courage it’s taken for these women, they now can look back on what’s been achieved thanks to them. It’s meant so much to so many people in the industry. There are so many people out there who have their backs. Was it worth it? Hell yes it was worth it.

“They’ve brought these issues in the profession that’s male-dominated to the fore and we can foresee change now.

“We need to see Russell McVeagh step up now, then other firms will have to follow.

“The cooler thing is, it’s not just law firms but all professions.

“The review highlighted the degradation, that’s it’s definitely a boys’ club, and stuff has to change.”

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