SYDNEY – The New Zealand parliament admitted on Wednesday that at least three cases of serious sexual assault had taken place within its premises in the last four years.
The allegations appeared in an internal report and have resulted in a parliament employee being stood down.
The independent investigation, which lasted five months and covered the period between Oct. 2014 and Nov. 2018, reviewed alleged sexism, racism and aggression towards women, including employees, executives, lawmakers, journalists and common citizens inside parliament as well as the mechanisms that protected alleged aggressors.
“I don’t want to cut across any employment or possible police investigations, but I am satisfied that the Parliamentary Service has removed a threat to the safety of women working in the Parliamentary complex,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives, Trevor Mallard, according to state broadcaster Radio New Zealand. Mallard added that he would not go into further detail as the matter was now being investigated.
After receiving the review, Mallard said in an interview with RNZ on Wednesday that he was under the impression that the assaults had amounted to rape and had been committed by the same person, and encouraged the victims to file a complaint.
Parliamentary Services said that the allegations had already been investigated, but the matter was revisited after the accuser approached the Services’ newly-installed general manager, who reopened the investigation. A member of the Service was stood down later on Wednesday.
After being informed of the review, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she and other leaders had met the Speaker and told him that the parliament needed to be safe for its employees.
“At (the) meeting we were all given assurances by the Speaker that he was taking appropriate steps to ensure this is a safe place,” Ardern said.
The New Zealand parliament consists of 120 lawmakers and employs hundreds of people, including administrative and support staff, as well as hosting journalists covering the proceedings in the House.