Jacinda Ardern accepts Labour chief’s resignation over handling of sexual assault case

The sexual assault allegations that are rocking the New Zealand Labour Party have forced the resignation of president Nigel Haworth.

New Zealand Labour president Nigel Haworth has resigned over the party’s handling of sexual assault allegations labelled at a staff member to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ms Ardern announced Mr Haworth’s resignation on Wednesday, two days after a volunteer went public with details of a digital rape, allegedly suffered at the hands of one of Ms Ardern’s male staffers.

As party president, Mr Haworth oversaw a botched investigation of that complaint and several others levelled at the staffer by a string of Labour members.

First learning of aggrieved parties in October last year, Mr Haworth emailed complainants of his decision to exonerate the staffer in July, offering them no line of appeal.

The enraged group have since taken their allegations public, leading to incredible pressure on Ms Ardern to intervene.

Mr Haworth has maintained that at no stage through the party’s drawn-out investigation was it clear that the complaints involved a sexual assault.

That position appears to have become untenable after fresh details, reported by The Spinoff website, made it into the public arena and Ms Ardern’s hands.

“In the last 48 hours I have read incredibly distressing reports of an alleged sexual assault involving members of the Labour Party,” Ms Ardern said on Wednesday.

“The party was never equipped to appropriately deal with the issue.”

Ms Ardern has apologised to the alleged victims and offered to meet with them, as well as assuring herself that they are appropriately supported.

“Raising an allegation of sexual assault is an incredibly difficult thing to do; for additional distress to be caused through the way those allegations are handled is incredibly upsetting,” she said.

“On behalf of the Labour Party I apologise to the complainants for the way this matter has been dealt with.

“I would be happy to meet with complainants … I will take steps to make that offer available to them if they wish to take it up.”

Ms Ardern says that upon learning of the sexual nature of the allegations last month, she intervened to install a Queen’s Counsel to investigate the claims.

“I have made it clear that I want the QC-led appeal process to resolve this matter,” she said.

“I also want to assure myself that appropriate victim support and advocacy have been put in place around the complainants.”

The complainants have not detailed their allegations to the police.