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20 Mar 2018 20:50
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    Ardern defends being left in the dark

    Labour's general secretary, president and a minister knew about sexual assault allegations at a party event before the PM. But she's defended being left out.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended being left in the dark about allegations of sexual assault against teens at a Labour Party youth event, saying it was for the good of the victims.

    She was this week left blindsided when asked by media about claims four 16-year-olds were sexually harassed or assaulted by a 20-year-old man during a Young Labour camp near Waihi in February.

    Since then, it's been confirmed the party's president, Nigel Haworth, and general secretary, Andrew Kirton, both knew of the incident within days.

    Mr Kirton said he didn't tell police, the teens' parents or the prime minister about the incident because it was a matter of confidentiality and the teens' choice.

    Senior cabinet minister Megan Woods also found out weeks later - but still a week before the prime minister - and was told the matter was being handled.

    And it's been confirmed list MP Liz Craig was at the camp itself at the time of the incident, but is believed to have been sleeping.

    Asked on Wednesday whether she had deliberately been left out of the loop for political purposes, Ms Ardern replied: "absolutely not".

    "This is not about me and political management. It's about supporting the young people involved," she said.

    "I accept there has been strong advice also to the party that ultimately the circle of people who knew - in order to make sure we were protecting these young people - was kept small and to the party leadership."

    While Ms Ardern said the matter has been handled "very, very badly" by the party, no one would be resigning.

    "Our focus as a party must be those young people, rather than focusing on the future of individual employees."

    Police launched an investigation into the allegations - made public by Newsroom - on Wednesday and the Labour Party has halted all youth-run events pending a review.


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