Sex assault claims rock Ardern’s New Zealand government

WELLINGTON – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologised on Wednesday (Sept 11) for her party’s handling of an alleged sexual assault, as a top ally was forced to resign.

In the most serious scandal she has faced since she took office in late 2017, the centre-left leader admitted “mistakes were made” after a Labour Party volunteer accused a senior party staff member of assault last year.

“Raising an allegation of sexual assault is an incredibly difficult thing to do – for additional distress to be caused through the way these allegations are handled is incredibly distressing,” Ms Ardern said in a statement.

The 19-year-old woman alleges that a staff member sexually assaulted her at his home in February last year and she reported it to Labour Party president Nigel Haworth in October that year.

An internal party investigation recommended no action against the man and Mr Haworth argued as recently as Tuesday that the complainant did not inform him about the seriousness of the allegations.

The woman, who has not been publicly named, disputed this, providing media with e-mails and documents she said supported her version of events.

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