18 Mar 2018

Explainer: Young Labour summer camp controversy

8:04 pm on 18 March 2018

The Labour Party is under fire over its handling of the sexual assault or harassment of four 16-year-olds at its annual Summer School Camp.

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Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton Photo: RNZ

According to Newsroom, more than 50 people attended the camp and about a third were aged 18 or under.

On the camp's second night, a party was thrown.

Four people, all aged 16, were sexually harassed or assaulted by a 20-year-old. Three of them said the 20-year-old put his hand down their pants.

There was alcohol at the party despite the victims' ages. Newsroom reported a "mountain" of alcohol including rum, vodka, cider and a large array of RTDs was being consumed by many people including a 15-year-old boy.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report it was her understanding there were consent forms, but they were more around their attendance.

Newsroom reported the camp's supervisor went to bed about 9pm and was not present at the party. There were also videos of drunken scenes and at least one man stripped to the waist dancing on a table.

The perpetrator was not a Young Labour member or staffer, according to Ms Ardern. He had not, as far as she knew, been offered counselling.

Police have offered to discuss the events with people who want to, without making any discussions public. They said anyone with relevant information should know that an official complaint does not need to be laid for investigations to begin.

Timeline:

  • Fri 9 February - A 'Summer School' camp organised by Young Labour begins at Waihi. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke at the opening of event, and Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton also spoke.
  • Sat 10 February - A 20-year-old man at the camp assaults or harasses four 16-year-olds: two young men and two young women.
  • Sun 11 February - The 20-year-old is ejected from the camp. Young Labour consults with all four victims. They say they do not want to take the matter further. Some ask that their parents are not told.
  • Wed 14 February - Labour's general secretary Andrew Kirton is told of the harassment. He said he then told Young Labour to ask if the victims wanted "support or take it further".
  • Two of the victims responded at some point after this.
  • Sat 3 March - Mr Kirton says professional help was offered to the victims, more than three weeks after he was told of the incidents.
  • Sun 4 March - One of the victims reaches out to Cabinet minister Megan Woods on Facebook, unhappy with a lack of response.
  • Ms Woods contacts Mr Kirton, who directly contacts the victim. He assures her the situation is "being handled appropriately".
  • 5-11 March - Mr Kirton consults with professional agencies, making sure that there was an external body which was offered to these people.
  • Mon 12 March - Newsroom publishes reports about the events at the camp.
  • In a statement, Mr Kirton says the party has initiated an external review of policies and procedures particularly around alcohol.
  • Mr Kirton says Young Labour had clear processes in place such as a dedicated welfare phone line and designated support people.
  • Mr Kirton says he has banned the perpetrator from future Labour Party events.
  • Tue 13 March - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Labour Party president back Mr Kirton and say he will keep his job. The PM and Mr Kirton admit the delay in offering professional support was unacceptable.

Watch Checkpoint with John Campbell's interview of Andrew Kirton:

Watch Morning Report's Susie Ferguson interview Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

At no point until the story was published were police, or the victims' parents told by Labour leadership what had happened.

The Prime Minister was also not told. Mr Kirton told Checkpoint the reason it was kept quiet was because when a wider group of people is aware of such an incident can make things worse for the victims.

"The advice that I have is that these young people need to make the choices themselves about who they tell. I didn't want to ... go over and above their heads and cause further distress by contacting other people when they might not want to discuss it with anyone," Mr Kirton said.

"We just need to make sure that we offer them appropriate level of support, don't go telling everyone under the sun, and put appropriate practices in place to stop this happening again."

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