Clark: law firm board should resign

Helen Clark: sexual assaults at one of New Zealand's biggest law firms had "shocked the country''...
Helen Clark: sexual assaults at one of New Zealand's biggest law firms had "shocked the country''. Photo: Reuters
Former prime minister Helen Clark says the board of Russell McVeagh should resign, following the release of an 89-page report into sexual harassment at the law firm.

On Thursday, Dame Margaret Bazley released the report after interviewing 250 people to investigate allegations made of the firm, including that five clerks were sexually harassed over the summer of 2015-16.

The report found junior lawyers and other young staff were encouraged to "drink to excess'' in that period, in a culture that had instances of crude, drunken and sexually inappropriate behaviour.

Dame Margaret noted failings in the firm's governance and policies, including no code of conduct, which she said contributed to poor management of the incidents.

She was appointed to lead the external review of incidents which occurred through 2015-16.

Allegations included male employees taking part in sexual acts with female intern students who were part of the summer law-clerk programme.

There were accusations of a culture of inappropriate sexual behaviour at the firm.

At least two staff members left after allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour towards young, female law-clerk students.

All six of New Zealand's law schools have cut ties with Russell McVeagh after accusations that a culture of sexual harassment was rife within the firm.

Ms Clark weighed in on the issue on Thursday on Twitter, saying sexual assaults at one of New Zealand's biggest law firms had "shocked the country''.

She said Dame Margaret had delivered "a damning report'' on the workplace practice and culture which made the behaviour possible.

"Question is: Why hasn't #RussellMcVeagh's board resigned? Fresh start is imperative,'' Ms Clark tweeted.

The firm responded to Ms Clark through its Twitter account.

"Good morning - in her review, Dame Margaret said she had faith in our leadership, saying 'the firm has accepted the recommendations set out in this report, and with the leadership of the current board, I am confident it is well-placed to tackle the challenges ahead.' Thanks.''

But Ms Clark appeared unimpressed with the response, simply replying there was a "huge trust deficit after what has happened''.

Dame Margaret previously headed the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct in 2007 and reviewed the Legal Aid system in 2009. 

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