Paula Bennett wrong to condemn PM | The Jackal

23 Dec 2019

Paula Bennett wrong to condemn PM

Warning: This article contains sensitive topics some people might find offensive.

It seems rather tedious to have to reiterate this on the eve of Christmas, but people are innocent until proven guilty under New Zealand law. Evidently certain journalists and politicians have forgotten this basic tenet of our Justice System. Of course people can make assumptions, but the media and Members of Parliament in particular must ensure that they aren't simply broadcasting beliefs that are based on mere speculation.

I am of course referring to the findings of an inquiry into the allegations of sexual assaults and harassment that recently rocked the Labour Party to its core, an inquiry that was the result of certain media and National Party politicians mercilessly going on the attack against Labour without verifying the facts first. 

Sadly for those who jumped to conclusions, Maria Dew QC recently summarised:

Sexual assault allegation – not established 
1.15. The allegation of sexual assault made by Ms 1 against the respondent is not established. The assault is alleged to have occurred in February 2018 at the respondent’s home. However, there is insufficient evidence that the events occurred as alleged by Ms 1, at any time during February 2018. Her evidence was incorrect in several critical respects in relation to the events of that evening. 
1.16. The investigation also found that Ms 1 and the respondent had been in a consensual personal relationship for some eight months by February 2018. The time Ms 1 and the respondent spent together in his home or her flat, during the evenings in that month, arose out of their personal relationship. In this event, the New Zealand Labour Party Code of Conduct and Harassment policies do not govern their personal relationship.

As some people seem to be a bit confused about this finding, please allow me to clarify. It does not mean a sexual assault did not occur. It is not the place of a QC to make such a determination. Instead that is the role of the Police and ultimately a Court of law.

The problem is that without the alleged victim making a formal Police complaint (here's how to report rape or sexual assault), published speculation about somebodies guilt or innocence is just that, speculation. A trial by media on the basis of misinformation promoted by unscrupulous politicians doesn't help anyone. It certainly didn't help the alleged victims in this case.

Deputy Leader of the National Party, Paula Bennett

A lack of any due process unfortunately didn’t stop Paula Bennett from trying to condemn Jacinda Ardern about the alleged sexual assault complaint, a complaint that hadn’t actually been made to the Labour Party at all. The facts be damned! Bennett smelled blood and knew that her media lackeys would lap her rhetoric up like there was no tomorrow.

Cover-up they yelled, too hungry for a scoop and reckless with their own credibility to even properly check the veracity of the claims made. For most of us however, even before the investigation was concluded, it was pretty obvious such an unrelenting public attack on the PM was unwarranted. The report just confirmed that our suspicions were correct.

The remainder of her evidence about reporting this allegation orally in her 9 March 2019 investigation committee interview, is rejected as improbable when assessed against the weight of other witness evidence to the contrary. On the balance of probabilities, the emails Ms 1 sent to the Party on 9 March 2019, to both Mr Simon Mitchell and Ms Lacy, did not contain any attached document detailing her allegation of sexual assault by the respondent.

This means Labour was telling the truth when they said they hadn’t received a complaint about a serious sexual assault. The QC likely checked for any attachments on the emails Mr Mitchell and Ms Lacy had received and found none. We should therefore consider this finding entirely evidentially based.

So a genuine mistake to attach a document (we've all been there) and/or a calculated attempt to discredit the Labour party and in particular the Prime Minister? In my opinion this all stinks of more business as usual Dirty Politics from the National Party. There is no question that Paula Bennett used the vulnerable 19-year-olds situation to her advantage. Instead of informing the Police about an alleged rapist, Bennett selfishly politicised the unsubstantiated claims and in the process ignored the legal rights owed to all those involved.

Clearly it wasn’t in the public’s interest for Bennett to abuse the very foundation of her Parliamentary Privilege by failing to act with honour. Invariably the general public is interested in politicians telling the truth and upholding the law rather than the morally challenged amongst them using other peoples misfortune to try and save their own deteriorating political careers. In this respect and in light of the malicious smear campaign she caused, Paula Bennett has breached her Conditions of Service as a Member of Parliament.

Here’s what she tweeted just after the report was released:

Get that! Labour wants to bury a report that almost entirely exonerates their conduct. Talk about deluded! The realisation that it’s in her best interest for people to be on holiday at the moment seems entirely lost on Paula Bennett...and for this stupidity alone she should resign.

Do you want to talk?

Safe to talk KĊrero mai ka ora sexual harm helpline:, 0800 044 334

TOAH-NNEST Te Ohaakii a Hine – National network ending sexual violence together:

National Collective of Rape Crisis 24-hour helpline: 0800 883 300