'Let's keep this internal' - Labour told sexual assault complainants not to go to police, Paula Bennett claims

Paula Bennett has claimed the Labour Party told complainants of alleged sexual assaults in the party not to go to police.

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The National deputy leader talked about the allegations on Breakfast with NZ First’s Shane Jones, who dismissed the claim. Source: Breakfast

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has maintained that she was not aware of an allegation of a sexual nature until an article was published last week. The Labour Party officials have consistently declared they were not advised of a sexual assault allegation during the in-house investigation. 

However, the National deputy leader said five complainants came to her with allegations of sexual assault, and while she did try help them go to police, they chose not to.

"I certainly did put that to them and did offer to go with them [to the police]," Ms Bennett told TVNZ1's Breakfast as she appeared on a panel alongside New Zealand First's Shane Jones.

"I also did offer that I knew police quite well and could probably find someone that I thought would handle them with the due respect and the sensitivity that it needed, but that's their call.

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The Prime Minister talked to TVNZ1’s Breakfast about the alleged sexual assault within the Labour Party. Source: Breakfast

"And actually they'd been told by the Labour Party not to go to the police so that's why they hadn't earlier. And it's their choice, it's not mine."

Ms Bennett said the complainants were told early on, "'Let's keep this internal and we'll work through a process,' and of course that didn't happen for them".

"These are young, vulnerable people - that self-doubt and that are going through extreme trauma - and yes, one of them has point blankly said that when she spoke to someone senior they said do not go to the police," she said.

"There are so many really sad parts of this process where they've put their trust in senior people."

Ms Bennett called politics a "robust environment", but added that for young people involved with political parties, as with any other workplace, there should be a sense to look after them and keep them safe.

"I think what we've seen over the last 18 months just proves that actually it has to be done better and we have to take more responsibility as a Parliament and I think as parliamentarians overall."

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The National Party leader believes Jacinda Ardern has lied about her knowledge of the allegations. Source: Breakfast

Mr Jones had a different approach to the issue.

"I don't know the circumstances," he said, adding that the complainants will realise they "took a wrong turn going to Paula".

"I say to any parent, if you've got a child who has suffered some criminal act, there's only one place go - that is police."

Mr Jones claimed Ms Bennett has "catastrophised" the issue, adding he was "more worried about Spark, whether or not I can watch the World Cup Rugby than hearing any more about she said, he said."

But Ms Bennett fired back saying, "Well that's fine Shane, while you worry about the rugby there's actually young people out there that tried to be heard numerous times by people that were senior.

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The Prime Minister said that the “complaints made to the party were of significant concern and needed to be heard in a timely way”. Source: 1 NEWS

"They got to a point where unfortunately for them they saw me as as the only avenue to have a voice and I have given them one. I would do it again in a heartbeat because I think that silence actually festers the kind of things that we've see happen and I will speak up for them.

"I don't think it is your role to make call as to what they should have done," she said.