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Police are investigating a text message, allegedly sent from the phone of National Party MP Sarah Dowie, to her former colleague and ex lover Jami-Lee Ross.
The police investigation is said to focus on whether the text message - which came after the break-up of their extra-marital relationship - constituted an incitement to self-harm, which is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Ross (33) has previously named Invercargill MP Dowie (43) as one of the women with whom he had an extra-marital relationship while National MP for Botany.
The text message included the words: "You deserve to die."
Ross initially received the message in August but has claimed reading it two months later led to considering self-harm. He was taken into mental health care shortly after.
The text message raised questions over whether there was a breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act, passed under National and voted for by Dowie. The law regulated digital communications, including text messages, making it illegal to urge someone to self-harm.
The fact of the police investigation was revealed by Ross during a television interview. It was apparently sparked by a call to the Crimestoppers hotline. Ross said he did not lay the complaint.
Asked if Dowie had been aware of the investigation, the National Party leader's office said she had not.
A spokesman said National Party leader Simon Bridges had also been unaware of the investigation.
He refused any further comment, saying: "It would not be appropriate to comment if a police investigation is underway."
Police national headquarters have confirmed detectives are still working on the case. "The investigation is ongoing."
Neither Ross (33) or Dowie (43) have responded to requests for comment.
The Invercargill politician was not answering her cell phone and at the time of writing had not responded to a text message requesting comment or a statement.
At Dowie’s first floor office on Kelvin Street in Invercargill the doors were locked and the lights were off. On one of the doors was a sign informing visitors that the office was closed for the festive season and would only open on January 28.
Ross and Dowie were understood to have been in a relationship for more than two years. It is believed to have ended around May.
During that time, Dowie and Ross were both in marriages with children each. Dowie and her husband later separated.
The text message which is the focus of police inquiries was made public last year in the wake of Ross' explosive departure from Parliament.
It followed claims of inappropriate behaviour towards female colleagues, leading to Ross disclosing two extramarital relationships.
At the time, the text message from Dowie's phone was released publicly through channels friendly to the rogue MP.
Netsafe chairperson Rick Shera, a lawyer specialising in the internet, said the introduction of the Harmful Digital Communications Act in 2015 changed the law relating to communications which prompted people to consider self-harm.
Prior to the law change, a crime was committed only if the person who received an adverse communication actually attempted or completed a suicidal act.
Shera said the new law allowed serious emotional distress to be a trigger for action, meaning it could be enough for conviction - or a civil case - if the recipient of a message seriously considered self-harm.
In criminal cases, it was necessary to show the "intent" behind sending the message. The context in which it was sent, the resilience of the person who received it and the age of the people involved were also factors considered.
The legislation shows someone convicted of inciting someone to self-harm or suicide could face up to three years in prison.
Shera would not comment specifically on the case involving Ross as Netsafe is the approved agency overseeing the HDCA.
In an interview with the Herald on October 19 - two days before going into mental health care - Ross disclosed the extra-marital relationship with Dowie.
At the time, the Herald and Newstalk ZB obscured Dowie's name from statements made by Ross.
The decision to disclose her identity now comes after police have confirmed that a text message allegedly sent from the phone of Dowie - a sitting MP - is under investigation by police.
Ross underwent an explosive exit from the National Party after being outed as the likely leaker of Bridges' travel expenses to media. He went on to make a string of electoral finance allegations against Bridges which are still under investigation by police.
Paula Bennett says there have been no official complaints about Jami-Lee Ross from any female MPs.
During the course of Ross' exit, National's deputy leader Paula Bennett said there were issues raised with the rogue MP. "What was put to him was inappropriate behaviour that is unacceptable from a married Member of Parliament."
The Jami-Lee Ross saga
August 13: National Party leader Simon Bridges' travel expenses are released.
October 15: National MP Jami-Lee Ross is accused of being the leaker by Bridges.
October 16: Ross is voted out of the National Party even as he gives an hour-long press conference in which he alleges electoral finance wrongdoing by Bridges.
October 17: National's deputy leader Paula Bennett accuses Ross of behaviour "inappropriate for a married member of Parliament". Ross lays police complaints. It also emerges he secretly recorded Bridges.
October 18: Allegations of adverse behaviour by Ross towards women are published by Newsroom.
October 19: Ross admits extra-marital relationships and names Dowie during an interview with the Herald.
October 21: Ross is admitted to mental health care after going missing.
January 21: Ross emerges in a television interview saying a text message from a former lover led him to consider self-harm.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757