Labour leaves way open for Hughes to return

By Derek Cheng

Darren Hughes says being the target of a false accusation
Darren Hughes says being the target of a false accusation

The Labour Party has left the door open for former MP Darren Hughes to return to politics if he wants to, though it would be unlikely to happen until the 2014 election.

Police announced yesterday that they would not lay any charges against Mr Hughes, who resigned from Parliament in March after allegations by an 18-year-old student of sexual offending following a night out in Wellington on March 2.

"The allegations do not reach the evidential threshold required to bring charges," said Wellington crime manager Detective Inspector Mike Johnson.

Mr Hughes was also cleared of any wrongdoing for three alleged incidents that were outlined in a letter anonymously posted to journalists.

"It's wonderful news," said Maggie Hughes, the former MP's aunt.

"It was a shock for us that he had to go through this, and we had total confidence that he was innocent.

"It's just such a shame it took so long."

Mr Hughes, who has maintained his innocence from the beginning, said in a statement he would take time to consider his future.

"Whatever I do, I would like to continue to serve our community and our country. But there's plenty of time," said the 33-year-old.

Labour's shadow Leader of the House, Trevor Mallard, said the party would welcome Mr Hughes back.

"The guy is exceptionably talented and my view is he is a real loss to us.

"I certainly hope that Darren has a future in the Labour Party."

He did not want to comment on whether Mr Hughes had shown poor judgment.

"I'm not prepared to go into that question of judgment. All of us have views and there will be a range of them. Those of us who are without sin can cast the stones on this."

Asked if Mr Hughes could come back for the 2014 election, Mr Mallard said it was up to the party and the former MP.

"If I had been bruised in that way, I'd probably want a bit more time," Mr Mallard said.

He rejected the suggestion that Mr Hughes might still be an MP if he had been stood down at the start of the police investigation, instead of resigning once it became public.

"Not a chance, because at the point this became public, there was a media frenzy. No person at all sensitive, and who could be a good MP, could stand that sort of frenzy," Mr Mallard said.

"There might be some journalists who might like to examine what they did."

Mr Hughes also fired a shot at the "frenzied media attention" that left him with no choice but to resign, or else risk distracting attention from the party's policies.

He said he had been the target of a false accusation.

"To be falsely accused of something I did not do, let alone a serious crime, has been one of the most challenging experiences in my life," Mr Hughes said.

The complainant did not respond to messages yesterday, and his lawyer, Scott Galloway, also made no comment.

The teenager's family asked for privacy.

Prime Minister John Key did not want to comment on the issue or whether Mr Hughes should have resigned.

- NZ Herald

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