Labour leader Jacinda Ardern must finally do the right thing and stand down the staff member in her office who is accused of serious sexual assault while the matter is reviewed, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett says.

“The shocking details of this alleged assault, which have been reported in the media this morning, are confronting and bring into sharp focus just how serious the matter is.

“The staff member accused of these violent acts needs to be stood down and removed from Parliament immediately until an earlier investigation into his conduct is completed.

“Any other workplace would take this sensible step to ensure the safety of its entire staff.

“The Prime Minister cannot distance herself from this issue. The alleged attacker works in her office. She would be rightly criticising any other organisation that handled something like this so badly.

“Labour doesn’t need an investigation into whether this was handled appropriately at the beginning – that much is blatantly clear.

“The victim who has spoken up today is incredibly brave. She deserves to be respected, and to not have to live in fear. It’s concerning to read reports that parts of her testimony appear to be missing.

“She is not alone. Five people have now come forward to me for help because they don’t feel they have been taken seriously. Two other women have similar stories of sexual assault and numerous others of intimidation and bullying all by the same perpetrator.

“If the Labour Party truly believes in a victim-led response then its handling of this has been appalling to date. It calls into question the decision-making of Party president Nigel Howarth.

“I’m also concerned about the process. It is not independent, as the findings will be reported back to the Labour’s ruling council, and it is not being led by a specialist in sexual assault.

“The victims in this sorry saga have lost faith and trust in an organisation that they believed would look after them.”

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