Police investigate Labour MP Darren Hughes

TRACY WATKINS AND JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 14:22 23/03/2011
MARCUS WILD

Labour leader Phil Goff has blamed the ''Beehive'' for leaking details about a police investigation into an incident involving high-ranking MP Darren Hughes

GOFF SPEAKS: Labour leader Phil Goff during a media conference this morning over a police investigation into MP Darren Hughes.
LUKE APPLEBY/Dominion Post Zoom
GOFF SPEAKS: Labour leader Phil Goff during a media conference this morning called over a police investigation into an incident involving MP Darren Hughes.

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Police are understood to be interested in looking at CCTV footage from a Wellington bar as part of their investigation into an alleged incident involving Labour MP Darren Hughes.

Hughes, Labour's chief whip, confirmed today that he was the senior MP at the centre of the complaint around an early morning incident at an inner Wellington suburb.

Labour leader Phil Goff also confirmed he knew two weeks ago that Hughes was being investigated by police.

He did not explain why Hughes had not been placed on leave when the investigation was first launched, suggesting it was only after it became public that it became difficult for Hughes to "carry out his normal duties".

Goff said information about the police complaint was leaked by the Beehive.

Prime Minister John Key has denied government involvement. He said he'd heard rumours a few days ago but ''there are always rumours around Parliament.''

THE INVESTIGATION

Police said their inquiry involved an incident that allegedly occurred in an inner-city suburb in the early hours of March 2.

"Inquiries into the matter are continuing but police are not seeking any assistance from the public at this stage," Detective Inspector Mike Johnson said.

The alleged incident happened after a debate at Victoria University on Tuesday, March 1.

Hughes was a speaker in the comedy debate, which was an event held as part of the university's Orientation Week.

It is understood that Hughes and the 18-year-old complainant, along with dozens of others who were at the debate, carried on to Wellington's Matterhorn bar.

The group then moved on to The Establishment bar where they carried on drinking. It is understood police are interested in looking at CCTV footage from the bar.

It is understood the complaint springs from an incident at Hughes' home which ended in the complainant leaving the house and walking in to a passing police car.

The complainant is understood to have no established political allegiances, although he has moved in political circles.

SUPPORTING HUGHES

Goff said Hughes was cooperating fully with the police investigation and was confident that he had done nothing wrong.

"Because the police inquiry is on-going I'm not about, and he's not about, to make any comment on the substances of the complaint or the process it followed.

"I don't know if is politically motivated... that the information was leaked from the Beehive."

Goff said he had known about the complaint for a couple of weeks but had felt comfortable with Hughes continuing his work.

"Because it's been made public I think it's very hard for him to continue to carry out his normal duties.

"I didn't think the complaint was relevant to him being able to carry out his job."

He said to the best of his knowledge it was the first time such a complaint had been made against Hughes.

"He is asserting very clearly that he is doing nothing, he believes, that is wrong. I accept his word for that... he's well regarded as a friend and colleague."

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Goff said Hughes retained his roles as senior whip and education spokesman, but someone would be appointed to act in those positions if he remained on leave for more than a week

Labour MPs had refused to comment about the allegations but it is understood the complainant was an 18-year-old male who has had links to Labour.

In a statement this morning, Hughes said he was aware of the complaint made to police and had done nothing wrong.

He has taken leave from Parliament and was not at his usual Wellington address this morning.

Hughes said he was revealing his own name because it was unfair that his colleagues should be subject to speculation and suspicion.

"I am aware a complaint has been made to police and I am cooperating fully with them. I've done nothing wrong and I have full confidence that the legal processes will lead to the right outcome."

Labour deputy leader Annette King had little to say on the matter when contacted today.

Hughes stayed with King when in Wellington. She refused to say whether the alleged incident occurred at her house.

She also refused to say whether police had executed a search warrant there.

"Darren's made a statement, the police have made a statement, Phil's made a statement, I've got nothing to say.

"Of course I support Darren but I've got no comment to make about the complaint."

THIRD TERM MP

Hughes is serving his third term as a Labour MP.

He was Labour's youngest MP when first elected for Otaki in 2002 aged 24, and is now Labour's 8th ranked MP in caucus, the party's education spokesman and chief opposition whip.

Despite losing the Otaki electorate seat to National in the 2008 election, he returned to Parliament as a list MP.

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