The public need to reserve judgment on allegations a Labour Party member who worked in the leader's office carried out a sexual assault, says a senior lawyer who has defended dozens who have faced similar accusations.

Criminal defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg QC said the nature of the allegations meant certainty was difficult yet the impact of such claims meant there was an obligation to focus on evidence.

"Let's not just get into some kneejerk reaction."

She said political and public pressure compelled action when information and time was required.


"Follow the evidence - what does the evidence say."

Dyhrberg said sexual violence cases needed to be studied for inconsistency and as to whether events described met a "commonsense" test.

For someone facing such allegations, she said they would view such claims as impacting on "my family, my life, my reputation" and drawing focus to gaps in evidence or improbable claims was a necessary step.

The Labour Party has been in turmoil since claims of bullying, harassment and a specific incidence of sexual violence were said to have been made against a man employed by Parliamentary Services who worked in the Labour leader's office.

A dozen people have made the claims, which were investigated by a Labour Party panel now facing accusations by one of the dozen that her allegations of sexual violence was overlooked.

One of those panel members, lawyer Simon Mitchell, has now said he did not receive and had not heard allegations which specified sexual assault.

He said he had a forensic review of his computer carried out which confirmed the emails received from the complainant did not carry the allegation.

In contrast, the complaint has issued her own statement specifying three emails, including two which included the allegation of "rape".


The scandal has led to Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigning. The Labour Leader's office staff member subject to the allegations has also resigned and left his job.

Dyhrberg said there was no direct role for police without the person alleging sexual assault making a complaint.

She said police could approach an individual who had claimed to have been assaulted to ask if they wished to make a formal complaint.

Dyhrberg was critical of police handling of such allegations, saying they were put before
the courts too easily by officers unwilling to decide against laying charges.

"The reason you have a lot of acquittals (is because) the police just take a complainant at face value. That's where the police fall down. You don't say, 'let the courts decide'."

Te Ohaaki a Hine, a national network working to end sexual violence, said police figures showed false allegations are rare, with 8 per cent of sexual violence complaints categorised as false - a lower rate than many other crimes. Sexual violence was the fifth most commonly reported offence in New Zealand.