COMMENT:

A cone of silence surrounds the man who was sent packing from Parliament more than three months ago. Parliamentary Service reopened an inquiry into a sexual allegation against the man - but is saying nothing.

Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard, who at the time said the danger had left the building, isn't responding to requests about the status of the inquiry being carried out by the department he heads.

On the day the man was stood down from Parliament Mallard, responding to the Debbie Francis report into bullying and harassment at Parliament, acknowledged there'd been at least three cases of serious sexual assault which he described as tantamount to rape. He said the person responsible was still working at Parliament - which set off alarm bells throughout the precinct.

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The man sent home later that day remains on full pay while a closed door investigation apparently continues.

The man had already been the subject of an internal investigation a year earlier, over an incident that occurred two years before that, but had been exonerated.

The complainant again came forward after the Francis report was published and after Mallard urged those who felt aggrieved, bullied or harassed to come forward and if need be report their cases to the police.

An Official Information Act request was lodged by Newstalk ZB to police on July 5 asking several questions relating to the release of the Francis Report on May 21 this year.

The following are the questions and the police response.

• Have there been any complaints with the police from Parliament after the urging of Speaker Trevor Mallard for the aggrieved to do so? Yes two complaints have been received by Wellington Police District.

• What is the nature of these complaints? Both allege indecent assault.

• Are the police actively investigating? Yes.

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• Are charges pending? The investigation is in the early stages and no charges have been considered yet.

• What is the nature of the charges? Not applicable, no charges have been considered yet.

• Does the investigation, if there is one, involve more than one person? There are two complaints and each involves different victims, witnesses and alleged offenders.

• Have interviews been done with the alleged offenders? No. the investigation has not reached that point yet.

• Does the person still work at Parliament? The alleged offender from the first complaint no longer works at Parliament. Police decline to answer this question in regards to the alleged offender in the second complaint due to Section 6 (c) of the Official Information Act 1982 as it will prejudice the maintenance of the law, including the prevention, investigation, and detection of offences, the right to a fair trial.

The answers to the questions were a long time coming.

Speaker Trevor Mallard. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Speaker Trevor Mallard. Photo / Mark Mitchell

By law Official Information Act requests should be answered within 20 working days, unless an extension is sought. It was 36 working days after the request was lodged before answers were received even though no extension had been sought. Initially a senior advisor for Ministerial Services with the police said the answers would be given several weeks earlier. Then she said it was being "reviewed." When asked why she said "everything gets reviewed, just for quality."

"It's always the simple ones where someone thinks they know it and they don't check and it turns out to be wrong. This one looks pretty straight forward, it's just in a queue for a quality check," she emailed.

Several days later she was asked how long a review was expected to take and she couldn't put a time on it, saying they don't have a timeframe.

Meanwhile the man stood down from Parliament waits. His employer, Parliamentary Service, which is not subject to the Official Information Act, apparently continues its secret reopened inquiry.

The accused said in an exclusive interview with Newstalk ZB in late May that the complaint involved him hugging a female colleague, rather than responding to her high five, after they'd both lost and later found a piece of equipment while working together at Parliament. Her complaint was laid two years after the "hug," which she claimed occurred from behind.

Speaker Mallard hasn't responded to requests for interviews about his rape claims.