NZ's National sticks by ex-bully Uffindell

·3-min read

Saying he believes in second chances, New Zealand opposition leader Chris Luxon has offered one to his newest MP.

Self-described high school bully Sam Uffindell has been welcomed back into the National partyroom after an independent investigation into an assault and other allegations of abuse two decades ago.

A week after taking his place in parliament, a report by news outlet Stuff revealed Mr Uffindell, then 16, viciously beat a 13-year-old at boarding school, leading to his expulsion from Auckland's prestigious Kings College.

The airing of the attack, known by party officials at the time of Mr Uffindell's election but not shared with the public, brought forward other complaints of his behaviour at university.

The investigation, undertaken by Maria Dew KC, did not clear Mr Uffindell but instead found there were "differing accounts" of what took place while studying at Dunedin's Otago University.

His all-male student flat featured a coat rack with women's underwear, and tenants were threatened with eviction due to its uncleanliness.

Mr Uffindell was accused of lashing out at flatmates while he was drunk and high.

"He was smashing on my door and yelling obscenities and basically telling me to get out, 'Hit the road, fatty'," a former flatmate told Radio NZ of one incident.

"I ended up climbing out of my bedroom window and ran to a friend's house to stay the night. I feared for my safety. I was scared."

Mr Uffindell admitted the boarding school incident and abusing alcohol and marijuana at university, but denied the specific reports as outlined by the former flatmate.

The episode has troubled the National party, with Mr Luxon last month saying Mr Uffindell was "involved in completely unacceptable and unlawful behaviour".

On Monday, Mr Luxon admitted being "disturbed" by the university allegations.

"The investigation has found there are differing accounts of an incident that happened 20 years ago in the context of a student flat that was breaking up," he said.

"Further, the investigation did not substantiate any allegations of bullying outside of Sam's time at Kings College and on that basis, the National Party caucus meeting earlier today and Sam for being fully reinstated to our caucus".

Mr Luxon said he wouldn't stand for similar behaviour today.

"I have never tolerated bullying of any team or workplace that I have led," he said, "but I also believe in forgiveness and second chances."

"If someone can demonstrate a genuine understanding of their behaviour and the way that it has negatively impacted others and can then show that they can become a better person, they deserve a second chance."

Mr Uffindell said he was grateful for the opportunity to continue his political career.

"I'm not going to lie, the last six weeks have been incredibly challenging," he said.

"But I do have the stomach for it and I will continue to work hard and deliver for the people of Tauranga."

National has declined to release the report.

Acting prime minister Grant Robertson attacked the opposition for choosing to release the report on the day of the Queen's funeral.

"It was pretty disrespectful and definitely pretty cynical," he said.

While Mr Uffindell can re-launch his political career, the decision may blunt the opposition's ability to campaign on law and order issues.

He spoke of a "growing culture of lawlessness and lack of accountability" in his maiden speech.

Asked whether National would be hypocritical to pitch as tough on crime given Mr Uffindell was never charged for his boarding house assault, Mr Luxon said that would be "conflating two separate issues".