Labour to overhaul policies after summer camp report

The Labour Party will overhaul its internal procedures, including developing a new alcohol policy, following an internal review into a youth summer camp which ended in accusations of sexual assault.

The party's governing council has said it will implement in full the recommendations of the report from Wellington lawyer Maria Austen.

In March, Newsroom revealed allegations of sexual assault by a man at a Labour summer camp a month earlier. The camp was run by the party’s youth wing, and alcohol was present.

Following the revelations, police launched an investigation, and in July the 20-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting four teenagers, aged 16 to 18, pleaded not guilty to six charges of indecent assault. He was granted interim name suppression.

Separate to the police investigation, the Labour Party undertook its own internal investigation into party processes and procedures, after questions over the handling of the alleged sexual assaults.

In a statement, Labour Party president Nigel Haworth said he would lead the implementation of all of the recommendations, with support from outside experts.

“The recommendations are both welcome and specific, and reflect the care taken by Ms Austen in completing her report," Haworth said.

The recommendations

Austen recommended the development of "a more tangible and effective relationship" between Young Labour and the Labour Party.

The report also called for a review, or development, of the party's code of conduct - including whether Young Labour should adhere to the same code or develop a separate one - as well as its policies around sexual harassment and assault, alcohol, events and host responsibility, bullying, and complaint procedures.

It said the party should update its event registration, parental consent and risk disclosure information and forms to ensure they complied with best practice and legislation relating to the care of minors at party-hosted events.

At least one Labour Party representative should also attend the entire event and be available throughout to ensure compliance with welfare and safety requirements.

Austen said the party should also introduce a new, "over-arching" alcohol policy with help from experts, as well as a new complaints process so complaints could be received and responded to without delay and with specialist advice.

'Victim-led' approach

Former party general secretary Andrew Kirton took a “victim-led” approach after being made aware of the allegations, and decided not to inform police, the victims’ parents, or prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

Kirton was backed by Labour party president Nigel Haworth, but his actions came under intense public scrutiny, and Haworth initiated an internal investigation into how the affair was handled.

The review was led by Austen, and also focused on Labour’s general culture and any other incidents of sexual harassment or abuse within the party.

The report was supposed to take three months, but was delayed. At the time the review was announced, Haworth said the findings were not to be made public but go to key party leaders.

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