New allegations against Uffindell 'serious and concerning' - Luxon

Source: 1News

Allegations about National MP Sam Uffindell's behaviour towards a female flatmate in 2003 are "serious and concerning", leader Christopher Luxon says.

Christopher Luxon and Sam Uffindell.

The Tauranga MP has been stood down pending an independent investigation into the allegations, which were made to RNZ.

Luxon made the announcement late on Tuesday night, hours after Uffindell admitted being a bully at school after revelations he was involved in a late-night assault on a younger boy which saw him being asked to leave Auckland's King's College when he was 16.\

National's leader told Breakfast on Wednesday the 2003 allegations are "serious and concerning" and need to be properly investigated.

READ MORE: National MP Sam Uffindell stood down while new allegations investigated

"I can tell you as a father, my daughter flatting, I'd want them to be properly investigated," Luxon said.

Uffindell has said he "enjoyed a student lifestyle" while at the University of Otago - drinking and at times smoking marijuana - but rejects any accusation he engaged in behaviour that was intimidating or bullying.

"On the other hand Sam disputes those allegations and as a consequence the right way forward is to have an independent investigation over the next two weeks to actually make sure we get to the bottom of it and then we'll take it from there."

Asked if Uffindell still had his support, Luxon remarked: "We'll find out in the next few weeks."

Questioned about Uffindell's character, it took the National leader a couple of attempts to actually answer.

READ MORE: National's Sam Uffindell admits to being a 'bully' at school

"That's what was so concerning about the incident at King's because for that victim that has impacted them tremendously, caused huge pain, hurt and suffering. But we also have to find the balance, right? I know as a parent, when I think about my kids being bullied in that way, it would be incredibly distressing and I would be angry about it.

"Equally, if someone has genuinely reformed and rehabilitated and is a different person and has declared it upfront, and we've probed that and we believe they are different, then we give them a second chance," Luxon said.

"I can tell you there wouldn't be many MPs in Parliament if you have to have a perfect past, but the key thing here is have you changed and are you different and have you improved your character?"

Pressed on whether Uffindell has changed his character, Luxon said: "Based on our conversation with references, based on my conversations with Sam and the contrition and remorsefulness and regretfullness you saw yesterday, that was my assessment.

"But again, when a new allegation comes in last night, that I was unaware of, the party was unaware of, we need to be able to investigate that in fairness to Sam so that he gets natural justice … but also in fairness to the alleged victim."

READ MORE: National's Uffindell wants to stay on as MP, to talk with Luxon

Breakfast host Matty McLean remarked he couldn't help think of the irony as the situation with Uffindell is going on while National votes against the three strikes law.

"Matty, what I'd say to you, is there's a very big difference between drawing a bow between this incident and three strikes law. The three strikes law is for very serious offenders here in New Zealand."

Luxon went on to say he wasn't denying the King's College assault was serious. He remarked he didn't condone the violence involved or Uffindell's actions "in any sense whatsoever".

Asked what the distinction and difference was between Uffindell and his friend's actions and the actions of youths in the recent spate of burglaries and ram-raids, given National wants to crackdown on crime, Luxon gave the following response: "Matty, as I said to you, there's no condoning anything that Sam did as a 16-year-old. It was violent. It was unprovoked. It caused huge hurt and harm to the victim. I'm not denying that. I've been really upfront about that."

Then asked if there should have been tougher penalties for Uffindell, Luxon said he couldn't speculate as he wasn't there. He said there had been consequences as Uffindell had been asked to leave King's College.

Luxon also said he should have been informed sooner of the King's College assault, but "more importantly", the public should have been told too.

"The reality is I don't get involved in independent candidate selection. I set an expectation really clearly about the high integrity nature of the candidates we expect to have. We have good processes around that, but the reality is I should have known sooner so my view would have been put into the public domain," he said when asked earlier in the interview if he'd been let down.