Independent inquiry into alleged sexual assault by Labour Party staffer expected to take four weeks

An independent inquiry into sexual assault allegations levelled at a Labour Party staff member is expected to take four weeks, but the Prime Minister  said it's important to "get it right and get it balanced".

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The Prime Minister today further discussed the issue after the story came to light yesterday, September 9. Source: Breakfast

Jacinda Ardern said she's waiting on the report to decide what to do.

It comes after details of the alleged sexual assault were published yesterday by The Spinoff - said to have occurred in February of 2018, with the complainant claiming the person had significant influence and connections within the party.

An investigation panel was set up by Labour's highest governing body, the NZ Council, earlier this year.

Ms Ardern has said she is "incredibly frustrated and deeply disappointed" at the way Labour has handled an investigation into a party staffer.

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Jacinda Ardern expressed her concerns today during a post-Cabinet meeting press conference. Source: 1 NEWS

Speaking to TVNZ1's Breakfast today, Ms Ardern maintains that when she was first told about the allegations she specifically asked if they were sexual or physical and was told they were not.

"One of the issues that I've referred to in the last few weeks since this complaint has been raised, obviously now we have additional information, but originally when this complaint has been raised I've made the point that when it comes to his [the alleged offender] employment all of these complaints had been made to the Labour Party, and I've continued to check in with his direct employer - Parliamentary Services - whether or not have we had any official complaints, has there been anything that's instigated an employment issue here that we need to act on - and there hasn't been.

"So that's something that we need to manage but there's obviously - what complaints have been made external to his employment - so I need to deal with that and we are."

Ms Ardern said she had read The Spinoff's story where a woman alleges she was pinned down in the man's home and sexually assaulted.

"Yes, I have read that account and it is deeply distressing," she said. "You will see in that account as well, the Labour Party's claim of course that it would never be appropriate for them to investigate a complaint of that serious nature, that only the police would be able to do that, and that that wasn't the complaint that was brought to them.

"The Labour Party cannot, it is not equipped to look into allegations of this serious nature; and so if we can provide support to support someone to go to the police - if we can do anything, provide counselling, anything in that regard - we can and we will."

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The PM says the staffer has been stood down from the precinct while inquiries are carried out.

Mr Ardern said she knows who the alleged staffer is, but said she's been advised he has not attended meetings or been in the precinct for five weeks. She also told Breakfast she believes she knows who the woman who's made the allegations is.

When asked why the inquiry by a QC would take so long, she said: "The QC has been engaged already, has already been engaging on the terms of reference, so it's already underway. Yes, it is a time but I also want to make sure it's done properly, so it's about getting that balance right."

Ms Ardern said it was important to bring a third party in to look at the allegations.

"That is where I believe I will get the clarity I need to act decisively and so that's been put in place."