CHRISTCHURCH - Staff at New Zealand’s parliament have suffered serious sexual assault, bullying and harassment, according to an independent inquiry. House Speaker Trevor Mallard described the situation as “intolerable” in an interview on Wednesday.

The inquiry’s 120-page report revealed that 14 people working in the parliamentary precincts said they had been sexually assaulted there.

Three serious allegations allegedly concerned the same man. In an interview with Radio New Zealand on Wednesday, Mr Mallard said he believed the individual was probably still working in parliament.

“We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape,” Mr Mallard said. “Reading the report carefully I get the sense that the man is still on the premises.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a meeting with Mr Mallard and party leaders on Wednesday to discuss the concerns.

She said the house speaker’s motivation was to make “sure this is a safe place, a place where people are treated with dignity and respect”. “The report we all saw yesterday has of course shown that, currently, that is not the case, and we have a huge amount of work to do,” she added. She said it was a personal choice for victims whether to report their allegations to police, as they had spoken to the inquiry on condition of anonymity. “We need to first ensure victims have the support they need,” Ms Ardern said.

Three serious allegations concerned the same man

In addition to 14 allegations of sexual assault, the five-month review by workplace consultant Debbie Francis also raised widespread claims of bullying, harassment, and aggressive behaviour in parliament. Unwanted sexual advances were reported by 54 people, and 50 people reported unwanted touching.

New Zealand’s Parliamentary Service said on Wednesday that one staff member had been “stood down” after a formal complaint was made alleging a historical sexual assault.

It said in a statement that the alleged incident had been investigated before, but reopened after a direct approach from the complainant. The original investigation was not into rape allegations, it said.