Kiwi rights groups criticise Chiefs sex inquiry

Thu, 08 Sep 2016 09:33
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REACTION: Leading New Zealand rights groups Thursday criticised an investigation that cleared Chiefs players of sexually assaulting a stripper, while demanding a change to Rugby Union's macho culture.

The New Zealand Rugby (NZR) inquiry cleared the players of serious abuse, although NZR Chief Steve Tew chastised them for hiring a stripper in the first place.

"Right now, thousands of New Zealanders are questioning the culture of our country's favourite sport and those in charge of it," said an open letter, drafted by the NZ Human Rights Commission.

The letter - signed by Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Jackie Blue and 25 other women including lawyers, politicians and advocates - said rugby culture needed to change "from the top down".

The allegations were made by a stripper, known as Scarlette, who said last month that she was abused at a Chiefs' end-of-season party held in a rural North Island pub.

She alleged players aggressively crowded around her, touching her inappropriately and pouring alcohol on her, before refusing to pay her fully.

Critics have questioned why NZR called an internal inquiry using its own lawyer, instead of independent counsel, in such an explosive case.

There had also been questions about how evidence from Scarlette, whose identity has not been revealed, was gathered for the report.

The open letter said the case had not been handled properly.

"NZ Rugby's judiciary process is not appropriate for dealing with issues of integrity, mana [honour], respect and basic personal rights," it said.

It said rugby was "like a religion in New Zealand" but could not operate without women volunteers and players across the country. 

"As much as New Zealanders love rugby - we need New Zealanders to respect women," Blue said.

Tew said on Wednesday that the report, which has not been publicly released, found no independent witnesses backed Scarlette's story.

NZR took no action against any individuals, instead issuing a collective caution to the entire playing group, even those who were not there on the night.

Wild end-of-season partying by players has become known as "Mad Monday" and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said last month that the practice should be stopped.

Tew said such events should be strictly supervised, rather than banned outright, arguing: "If we drive it underground, we're likely to get worse behaviour."

Agence France-Presse

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