9 Sep 2016

Chiefs scandal: NZ Rugby to work with Louise Nicholas

8:59 pm on 9 September 2016

New Zealand Rugby will work with anti-sexual-violence advocate Louise Nicholas to help educate players and the rugby community following the Chiefs scandal.

The Chiefs are investigating allegations of misconduct during end-of-year celebrations near Matamata.

Police said they would again contact Scarlette following previously unheard allegations aired today about what happened at a bar at the Ōkoroire Hot Springs (right) Photo: PHOTOSPORT / RNZ

Last month, a woman hired as a stripper for the team's end-of-season event said some players groped her, threw gravel and swore at her while she performed at the function at the Ōkoroire Hot Springs, near Matamata.

Further details emerged in previously unheard audio on Morning Report today.

An investigation carried out by New Zealand Rugby's lawyer, Keith Binnie, found the allegations were unsubstantiated. The organisation said on Wednesday it had decided not to take further action, other than giving the team a collective formal caution.

More than 5000 people have since signed an open letter to New Zealand Rugby, calling for an independent inquiry into the scandal.

However, the woman at the centre of the incident, who wanted to be known only as Scarlette, said she did not want the inquiry to be reopened.

In a statement sent through her lawyer this afternoon, she said she did not want matters reinvestigated, nor did she want to lay a complaint with police.

Scarlette said she wanted to be left alone and have her privacy respected.

Earlier today, the police had said they wanted to speak to her again following the previously unheard allegations.

'We need to learn ... and we will'

Speaking this afternoon in Waikato, and later to Checkpoint with John Campbell, New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said the organisation was revisiting its approach to the culture around the game.

NZ Rugby head Steve Tew

NZ Rugby CEO Steve Tew Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

"The issue is we've got some professional players that make judgements around where women sit in their view of the world that's not appropriate," he said.

He was apologetic towards Scarlette and said it had also been difficult for those on the team.

"She is definitely a victim in all of this and we apologise for that but ultimately we've also got some players whose reputations were put up for people to scrutinise, which included making some very serious allegations of sexual and physical assault.

"The reality is that she made some allegations on TV that are incredibly serious, but she wasn't prepared for the police to investigate them."

He confirmed some All Blacks had been at the event.

Mr Tew said this afternoon that New Zealand Rugby would work with Ms Nicholas to enhance its education programmes for players and the broader rugby community.

The organisation had met with her, as well as Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Jackie Blue today, after Dr Blue's criticism of the investigation.

He said he had taken them through the Chiefs investigation process and they had accepted the organisation's inquiry did not need to be re-litigated.

"If people like Louise could come and give us more advice then that would be welcome.

"And it's not just about women, it's about sexual orientation, it's about race, it's about religion, it's about everything else."

Mr Tew had earlier defended the way the investigation was handled, including questioning players before speaking to Scarlette.

He told Checkpoint that the organisation needed to learn lessons from the experience, "and we will".

The team had a support discussion around inclusion and diversity about four or five weeks ago.

"So we actually are quite active in this area because we know that rugby can be an opinion leader - if we can get this right then the rest of New Zealand will follow."

Incident has been a 'huge wake-up call'

Ms Nicholas told Checkpoint someone independent should have done the investigation

She said the incident had been a "huge wake-up call" for New Zealand rugby.

"And they've decided 'you know what, we do need to do this better, how do we do that?' Now they're asking all the right questions.

"But why did it have to take this to have that happen?"

She said she hoped the organisation had learnt its lesson in its handling of the situation.

"I believe, I absolutely believe in my heart something has happened, but I guess really we will never know what," Ms Nicholas said.

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