Statement from Simon Mitchell

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I was part of the New Zealand Labour Party panel that was set up to investigate allegations of inappropriate conduct by one member of the Party against another.

The Panel arranged to meet with a number of individuals on 9 March.

On the morning of 9 March the complainant sent an email to me: “Hi simon, i was woundering if anyone today had printer acess? I want to be able to read off of a timeline testimoney I’ve created. Would somone be able to print this before my interview at 10.30?”

The email did not have an attachment.

I replied that she should send it to Dianna Lacy as she was opening up that morning.

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The complainant sent a document to Dianna Lacy, who I am told printed a copy and gave it to the complainant.

When the complainant met with the Panel she read from a document when taking us through her concerns. She did not provide us with a copy of that document. At no point did she say that she had been sexually assaulted or tell us about the events that are described in the Spinoff article.

I have subsequently (last week) been given a copy of what the complainant sent to Dianna to print out on the morning of our interview and it does not contain any details of the sexual assault against her as described in the Spinoff article.

I met with the Complainant again on 29 May 2019 to clarify the allegations and the matters that we were investigating. At no time during that meeting did she say that she had been sexually assaulted by the subject of the complaint or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

At the conclusion of the meeting she said that she would provide me with more detailed information in the next few days.

On 10 June 2019 I emailed the complainant following up the documentation that she was to send.

On 11 June 2019 the complainant sent me an email with 3 attachments including what she refers to as her testimony. Neither the testimony nor the other attachments contain any reference to a sexual assault on her or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

On 17 June 2019, after being advised of the outcome, the complainant emailed me and the other members of the panel thanking us for our hard work.

On becoming aware of the Complainant’s allegation that she had provided me with details of the assault on her both in person and in attachments to emails sent to me on 9 March and 11 June 2019, I have had my computer system forensically examined.

There is no evidence of any attachment being sent to me on 9 March 2019.

There were three attachments to the email to me dated 11 June 2019. None of these attachments or the email itself contain any reference to a sexual assault on her or disclose the events that are the subject of the Spinoff article.

31 COMMENTS

  1. While trying very hard to be objective as far as this issue is concerned, I can’t see any reputable lawyer, in particular Simon Mitchell going public with his statement if he thought he was at risk of being caught out lying. To do so, puts too much at risk for him.

    • Mary_a: “…I can’t see any reputable lawyer, in particular Simon Mitchell going public with his statement if he thought he was at risk of being caught out lying. To do so, puts too much at risk for him.”

      I agree. In the normal course of events, I’d accept a complainant’s account as credible. Not this time.

  2. As a lawyer Mr Mitchell will know exactly what approach, what to say and how to say it to be convincing to a jury. We are the jury. He will also know that a thorough forensic would be essential to be certain there was no paper trail to find that would disprove his statement. He has had the time to do that; and has enlisted professional advice of a computer expert to be sure. He will not be at risk of being caught out lying. That doesn’t mean he is not lying, it means he has done his professional homework.
    It’s he said she said just like it was yesterday. We will never know the truth.
    The most significant question to me is why this girl would put herself through this horror if it were not true. What could she possibly hope to gain ?
    D J S

    • Mr Mitchell is an officer of the court, and as such he is highly unlikely to lie. This isn’t Trumpland land where lawyers sometimes do appear to lie. Mr Mitchell also has his own lawyer and it is highly unlikely that he would lie, or that he would advise his client to lie; that’s called conspiracy, and is a criminal offence.

      They may charge like wounded bulls, and stress us out, or have varying degrees of competence, but the legal profession in NZ is held in high regard, and I suggest deservedly so.

      We are not the jury, nor should we be. Different people have, or think that they have various knowledge, much of which has come from Paula Bennett.

      There are other reasons why complainants may sometimes relate things which may or may not have happened. The important thing is good care and support for all the aggrieved young people, and fingers firmly crossed that Bennett has the brains and the good sense not to do anything to exacerbate matters, or add to their stress levels.

      • Snow White: “Mr Mitchell is an officer of the court, and as such he is highly unlikely to lie. This isn’t Trumpland land where lawyers sometimes do appear to lie. Mr Mitchell also has his own lawyer and it is highly unlikely that he would lie, or that he would advise his client to lie; that’s called conspiracy, and is a criminal offence.

        They may charge like wounded bulls, and stress us out, or have varying degrees of competence, but the legal profession in NZ is held in high regard, and I suggest deservedly so.”

        Exactly. You’ve nailed it here.

    • We would need to know more before such a question has a setting that would give it relevance.
      Sexual matters whether alleged or overt do not stand alone. The settings, motivations, acts, perceptions and hindsight can be complex.

      • Yes, John W. And according to The Standard, ‘Sarah’,the young woman here did not, and has not, approached Bennett herself, Bennett is apparently acting on second hand and third hand information. I watched TS film clips of Bennett in Parliament on this and wondered if she is a psychopath, and why on earth Bridges is letting her behave this way.

        PB is taking enormous liberties with someone elses’s personal information, and even tho’ ‘Sarah’ is not publicly identified, many will know who she is, and her stress levels may now be astronomical. She is young, and whatever else has happened, none of our young people deserve to be yet again cynically used by National Party MPs . The best outcome would be Paula Bennett’s resignation from the NZ
        Parliament.

        PM Ardern is right in trying to get this issue out of the public arena and if PB were genuinely concerned about supporting the young complainants, then she’d go along with this.

        • soimon is letting pulla behave that way because soimon is desperate to be PM but he sounded desperate this am on RNZ he sounds like he is losing his marbles

    • David Stone: “He will not be at risk of being caught out lying. That doesn’t mean he is not lying, it means he has done his professional homework.”

      You know the old saying: truth will out. He’s a lawyer: he’ll know that better than anybody. If what happened is counter to his statement, I doubt that he’d be saying anything at all.

      Make no mistake: this is Dirty Politics. Paula Bennett’s involved. Need anyone say anything further? I surely haven’t forgotten the run-up to the 2014 election, and Nicky Hager’s book. I was profoundly shocked by its contents. What we’re seeing now is completely of a piece with what Hager revealed in that book. The Natz have had a lot of practice at this stuff: Bennett could do it with one hand tied behind her back, so to speak.

      “The most significant question to me is why this girl would put herself through this horror if it were not true. What could she possibly hope to gain ?”

      That’s the whole point. She didn’t. Each member of the panel has said that she made no mention of a sexual assault. Do you not believe them? I do. I’ve heard the interviews, read the evidence. They come across as credible.

      This is Dirty Politics. There doesn’t have to be anything of substance in the entire narrative; in today’s world, if a woman claims to have been sexually assaulted, the default position is to believe what she says. The Natz know that full well: they’ve got Form for this sort of nasty stuff. If you haven’t read Nicky Hager, I recommend his book. You’ll see them in all their ugliness.

      When the story first broke, I was inclined to believe that there was something in it. However: when I read the Spinoff account, heard the interviews, saw that Paula Bennett was up to her fetlocks in it, I realised that we were being confronted with more Natz dirty tricks. I advise scepticism: you’re not being mean to all women if you say, hang on a minute, something about this doesn’t smell right.

      “We will never know the truth.”

      No, we won’t. I’m pretty sure that I heard the PM on the radio today say that it would be up to the complainants whether any further information on this story would be made public. If they want to keep it out of the public eye, so be it. How very convenient. Meantime, the Labour men and women who’ve had their reputations and credibility impugned, have no opportunity to defend themselves. How is that justice?

      • “Golly how Truth will out” is what you say when occasionally and eventually it does.
        It is the basis of our justice system that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that everyone must have access to legal representation in court. This means that sometimes lawyers are obliged to follow their client’s instructions whether they believe their client or not. They are professional liars. The justice system depends on them doing so. They might advise their client to confess if they don’t think their story will wash, but this will be irrespective of what they believe themselves. They might advise confession when they believe innocence if they know their client will not be believed in court, or vice-versa. This lawyer is preparing public sentiment in the interests of his client.
        D J S

        • David “They are professional liars.” Not so. They may defend persons whom they may suspect are guilty. Everyone is entitled to a defence, but lawyers are not allowed to tell lies when defending the guilty. You may be confusing lawyers with politicians.

          The justice system does not depend on lawyers telling lies.

          The justice system allows all defendants to present a defence.

          “Everyone must have access to legal representation in court.” Not so. People may defend themselves, and often do.

          “This lawyer is preparing public sentiment in the interests of his client.” This is a shocking accusation, it is highly unlikely, and it is defamatory.

          • “This lawyer is preparing public sentiment in the interests of his client.” This is a shocking accusation, it is highly unlikely, and it is defamatory….This remark does not differentiate between whether he is right or wrong. He is getting his story out there either way. I am not asserting that he is wrong necessarily.
            I am aware that people can conduct their own defence , I have done so myself . But any defendant has the right to engage council even if he or she cannot pay for one.
            In any contested case one lawyer is arguing one thing , the opposing council is arguing the other. They are seldom both right. The court has to decide who they believe. In Peter Ellis’s case the believed the worn side.
            D J S

            • David, Yes, it can be sticky. In court the police prosecutor or crown prosecutor, is very limited in what they can say – the fancy Perry Mason stuff is limited to the defence.

              I read one criminal lawyer’s biography recently – can’t remember who – and was unimpressed by what some may regard as clever ” trickiness”. I’ve also had robust discussions with a couple of lawyers about defending
              overtly bad people. They say that everyone is entitled to a defence, and that there is some good in everyone.

              About one of my work mates, Ildiko Matskassy, who was murdered in 1992, I annoyed a cop the day of her funeral by saying that her husband wouldn’t need a very good lawyer to get off. He had a QC. He got off. I later discussed that with someone in the law faculty at VU, because there was evidence not produced at the trial which I think could secured a different outcome. Ildiko, 28, was strangled and tossed in the harbour. I had a big file I lent to a journo who took off overseas. So did the acquitted husband.

              I don’t have the stomach to check it out, but I think that their only son was murdered elsewhere a couple of years ago.

              Defence lawyers may not like their jobs. The late Greg King, who defended the person charged with Scott Guy’s murder, and I think was also part of the defence for Sophie Elliot’s murderer, was regarded as a top notch professional. He committed suicide at a young age. One of the messages he left, was that he was haunted by the ghosts of people who were victims of those who he had defended.

              Barristers are professionals doing a tough job, but it is inconceivable to me that they would lie. Personally I’d like to see the top barristers doing the prosecuting. I was very relieved when a young lawyer relative missed out on a job with a criminal law firm and is in a different field, because for that person, I thought that the practice of criminal law could have been as destructive as it clearly was for the late Greg King.

              Defending bad people doesn’t make lawyers bad people.We need them doing their jobs in courts of law to stay civilised.

              If I were guilty of bad stuff, I’d be wanting trial by jury rather than by judge.

              • Perhaps I should not have used the term liar S W. But they have as you so graphically describe , the job of defending the indefensible . That entails sometimes doing all they can to convince a jury that what happened did not happen or vice- versa. Or not by their client anyway. Irrespective of what they themselves believe or know. It has to be done in a courtroom not to be lying.
                I don’t aree that lawyers are necessarily more or less honest than the rest of us. Some will be some won’t be just like everyone else.
                Judges though get selected from and by their profession and are probably pretty trustworthy, and they have seen it all. I bet they sentence people a jury has convicted not believing they are guilty sometimes. Myself I would chose a judge rather than a jury if I was accused of a serious crime I did not commit. A jury is likely to be much more influenced by a cleaver lawyer in my opinion.
                Cheers D J S

                • David. PS, It’s not necessarily lying. I think the defence in the heartbreaking Sophie Elliott murder was provocation. It is reasons – explaining the inexplicable, challenging forensics etc. Some of us could possibly kill somebody who harmed our children.

                  Yes, I’d want a judge if I was innocent and jury if guilty – preferable the sort of ChCh jury prepared to accept that the late Robin Bain was a killer.

        • David Stone: “They are professional liars.”

          No. In defence of the lawyers of my acquaintance , and those in my extended family: they are not. They work within the law: it’s what they’re paid to do. Here’s what Snow White says:

          “Mr Mitchell also has his own lawyer and it is highly unlikely that he would lie, or that he would advise his client to lie; that’s called conspiracy, and is a criminal offence.”

          In a court setting, or in a similar proceeding, that’s perjury. Any lawyer caught being involved in, or abetting, that sort of caper will be struck off quicksmart.

          Snow White also says this: “…according to The Standard, ‘Sarah’,the young woman here did not, and has not, approached Bennett herself, Bennett is apparently acting on second hand and third hand information.”

          Now. When it comes to credibility, Mitchell trumps Bennett hands down. I will take Mitchell’s word over Bennett’s. On any matter you care to name. But especially on this.

          It’s clear that your opinion of lawyers is lower than mine; in this matter, however, I think I’m on the right side.

          • Hi D’Esterre
            I totally agree re Bennett, but her integrity has nothing to do with that of the complainant . Bennett served the function of getting the issue into the public discourse , and it was the only thing that did or would have done.
            I think Lawyers come in the same range of integrity as other people.
            Your earlier suggestion that I might be confusing them with politicians had some relevance seeing how many lawyers are also politicians.
            I’m quite sure the lawyers you know in tern know layers that they do not respect.
            Cheers D J S

            • David Stone: “Bennett served the function of getting the issue into the public discourse”

              Here we come to the nub of it: you’re assuming that there was an issue to get out.

              I say: sez who? This is where the Dirty Politics angle cuts in for me. I don’t believe a word that Bennett says about this so-called issue.

      • ” I was profoundly shocked by its contents. ” Ditto, D’Esterre. Non-readers think it was just a bit of mud-slinging, but it was profoundly bad , and at times dangerous and personally destructive interactions and propositions – and by persons smarter and better educated than most.

        Ditto, ‘Hit&Run.’ Terribly shocking, punctiliously referenced, and patently true. I have great faith in Geoffrey Palmer on this one, but what we did to a bunch of subsistence farmers eking out an existence in a far off troubled country, shames us all, and if doesn’t it should, and anyone who disagrees on this has to be sub-human…

        • Snow White: “Ditto, ‘Hit&Run.”

          Yup. Also “Other People’s Wars”; and “The Hollow Men”. I recommend these books to anyone who wants to know how things work when and where we’re not looking. Or aren’t given the opportunity to look.

          “what we did to a bunch of subsistence farmers eking out an existence in a far off troubled country, shames us all, and if doesn’t it should, and anyone who disagrees on this has to be sub-human…”

          I couldn’t agree more. Our governments have shamed us all by allowing this country to be dragged into a conflict that has nothing whatever to do with us; indeed, that would not exist, were it not for western interference over many decades.

          While many of us marched on parliament to implore the Clark administration not to join Bush’s insane adventure in Iraq, not nearly enough of us protested against our having any troops at all in Afghanistan.

  3. If we can make judgments and assumptions based on the way that people speak, what can we make of the only email quote presented to us?

    “Hi simon, i was woundering if anyone today had printer acess? I want to be able to read off of a timeline testimoney I’ve created. Would somone be able to print this before my interview at 10.30?”

    We can all make spelling mistakes, and we all hate the grammar police. But, “woundering”, “acess”, “testimoney” and “somone”? So many red squiggly underlines.

    Smart play by Mr Mitchell? Or an insight into “Sarah”?

    • DX5: “Smart play by Mr Mitchell? Or an insight into “Sarah”?”

      Heh! I wouldn’t necessarily read anything into it. I’m a grammar, usage and spelling nerd; I drive my family spare. I’ve done a bit of proofreading in my day. In my experience, many of the young can’t spell for toffee; and of those who can, many of them have no eye for detail, so that they don’t spot typos and spelling errors.

    • DX5 Much of the time now in state schools, pupils’ written literacy errors are not corrected because it can hurt their feelings.

      Hence their school reports may also contain errors – which hurt my feelings.

  4. Having read this and some other references I gather that the complainants were given an hour each for the panel to hear their complaint.
    This complainant at least felt that this was an inadequate amount of time to do justice to her issue -s. The article above is entirely devoted to what was not in the submission. What on earth was her complaint about that took an hour to hear? And why isn’t anyone telling us what her problem was that caused a hearing to be set up and a panel put in place to hear it , that was not of sexual abuse?
    D J S

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