Several female students have claimed that they were sexually assaulted or harassed by lawyers during an internship programme at New Zealand firm Russell McVeagh.
Grant Guildford, vice-chancellor of Victoria University in Wellington, confirmed that several of its students complained of inappropriate sexual behaviour of Russell McVeagh staff during the firm's 2015-2016 internship programme. Guildford said that the matter was referred to the police, but no charges were brought. Victoria University and Canterbury University also approached Russel McVeagh directly after a student organisation raised concerns.
According to New Zealand website Newsroom, three alleged incidents occurred during Russell McVeagh's internship programmes. The first was "a serious allegation of sexual assault arising from an event at a senior lawyer's house". The second was "during the time of the firm-wide Christmas party" and a third incident "was at a Wellington venue, El Horno* bar"
|A genuine photo from El Horno's website|
Following the allegations the firm overhauled its internship programme, introducing a ban on alcohol and a helpline. It has not prevented a backlash from students. The Victoria University Law Students' Society has cut sponsorship ties with the firm for a Women in Law Event. And the Maori Law Students Association has rejected a sponsorship offer from Russell McVeagh, citing a clash in values with the firm.
In a lengthy statement, Russell McVeagh's Chief Executive Gary McDiarmid told RollOnFriday that over two years ago the firm received serious allegations relating to incidents in Wellington. He said "we immediately conducted a full internal investigation at the time and initiated a formal process", adding that "those who were the subject of the allegations left the firm following the investigation". He also said "out of respect for the privacy of the women involved, we have no further details to share".
* A venue that describes itself as "Wellington's naughtiest and best bar".