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Clark In Shoddy Cover-Up Over Ella Henry Case

Sunday 16 August 2001

Helen Clark In Shoddy Cover-Up Over Ella Henry Case

Information obtained by National has revealed a shoddy cover-up by the Government over the Ella Henry case, National's Justice spokesperson Wayne Mapp said today.

Ms Henry resigned on 24 August after media exposed the case on 23 August.

But answers to written questions lodged by Dr Mapp to Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson show that the Chief Human Rights Commissioner was advised of the case on 5 July. Rosslyn Noonan advised the Prime Minister on August 10. It was the Prime Minister who advised Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson on 12 August and Margaret Wilson had to contact the Chief Human Rights Commissioner on 13 August for a briefing.

"Margaret Wilson knew about the case for 11 days, and the Prime Minister knew for longer than that, yet the Government's response on the evening of 23 August and early morning of 24 August was that 'the matter was closed' and Ms Henry's attempt to bully police using the power of her office was just a 'silly letter'.

"It wasn't until public opinion and political reaction suggested that Ella Henry was not an appropriate person to hold the office of Human Rights Commissioner that the issue of Ella Henry's continued tenure was raised.

"The Prime Minister has now been deeply implicated in this shoddy cover-up. She must have known that this was an extraordinarily serious matter but she essentially did nothing. The Chief Human Rights Commissioner's conduct must also be called into question. Rosslyn Noonan failed to advise the Associate Justice Minister for over a month. What was she hoping; that it would go away?

"It is unbelievable that Margaret Wilson heard about the case from the Prime Minister, not the Chief Human Rights Commissioner who is responsible to the Minister and who Ms Wilson previously said had notified her 'as soon as she had full knowledge of the facts'. Information I have obtained shows Ms Wilson had to personally phone Ms Noonan on 13 August to request to be briefed.

"Clark knew about the case before Wilson but she sat on her hands and did nothing. Yet days after the resignation had been tendered, the Prime Minister said that when she saw the documents for the first time she thought 'oh my goodness, yes, here we go again' and said 'resignation was an appropriate response from Ms Henry'. The Prime Minister must explain why it took the Government, and more specifically Ms Wilson, eight days to come to that conclusion if it was so obvious to her at the time.

"The Government's handling of the Ella Henry case reeks of preferential treatment for their favoured politically correct appointees. Ella Henry's appointment was political cronyism. Proper checking would have shown her unsuitability for a judicial role.

"The handling of Ms Henry's misuse of her position and accusations of racism exposed a double standard by the Clark Government. First, they hoped it wouldn't become public. Then they hoped that a public apology would be enough.

"Anyone other than a political crony would have been asked for his or her resignation immediately. The double standard has damaged faith in the Human Rights Commission and raises serious questions about the judgement and integrity of both the Prime Minister and the Associate Justice Minister," Dr Mapp said.

Ends


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