Golriz Ghahraman was subject to almost continuous threats of sexual and physical violence — including death threats — in her six years as an MP, Greens co-leader James Shaw claims.

He made the comments in a press conference this afternoon in Auckland, following Ghahraman’s announcement she would immediately resign from Parliament, amid shoplifting allegations.

The former human rights lawyer and Iranian refugee apologised in a statement around midday today, saying she had let a lot of people down and would take accountability for her actions. She said she had fallen short of expectations and mental health was a factor in her acting “in ways that are completely out of character”.

This afternoon, Shaw said Parliament was “obviously” a stressful place but Ghahraman had been “subject to pretty much continuous threats of sexual violence, physical violence, death threats since the day she was elected to parliament”.

“That has added a higher level of stress than is experienced by most of parliament.

“That has meant, for example, that there have been police investigations into those threats almost the entire time she has been in parliament.

“Obviously, if you’re living with that level of threat in what is already quite a stressful situation, then there are going to be consequences for that. I have a lot of empathy for the fact that she has identified that she is in a state of extreme mental distress.

“She’s taking accountability for her actions.”

Shaw said the party was not in contact with the police about the allegations and it would be inappropriate for it to be. It meant the party found out about further allegations as they were revealed in the media.

He said Ghahraman was getting a lot of support from Green Party members and colleagues as well as friends outside the party, and medical professionals.

Shaw said Ghahraman was not using mental ill-health as an excuse or justification for her behaviour, only as to explain it.

“It’s really sad that it’s [got to] this point.

“We work with each other and we support each other as best we can, but it is a very challenging work environment.”

Co-leader Marama Davidson appeared to become briefly emotional talking about “the particular treatment of women with public profiles and in additional the particular treatment of women of colour”.

“It is incumbent on all political parties and the parliamentary system to be able to support everyone under the pressures of political profiles. The Greens certainly have always taken that seriously to make sure that there are avenues for MPs feeling that stress to be able to communicate and seek help.”

‘A sad day’ for the Green Party – Davidson

Marama Davidson said there was a “high quality and very robust” selection process for Green MPs but MPs of all parties were “still human” when they came into politics.

She said the party would continue to support Ghahraman through “a really distressing time”, saying Ghahraman was “clearly distressed”.

“We know that this is the right decision for her — to apologise and resign from Parliament for her wellbeing, for her to be able to focus.”

She said the focus now was to give Ghahraman “aroha and compassion”.

Regarding criticism of the way the Green Party had handled the allegations, Davidson said she and Shaw needed to “seek clarity and understand the allegations”.

“She was overseas and I think people can understand how important it is to have face-to-face and in-person conversations with such allegations. Also to allow her to have the support that she needs to discuss those allegations. Once we were advised and took some time to work out our plan and course of attack and appropriate action, Ms Ghahraman returned at the earliest possible convenience.”

Davidson said the co-leaders had not been aware of the allegations relating to Cre8iveworx in Wellington in October, although the party had previously been advised there could be more than the first Scotties incident.

Davidson said she was losing a friend and a colleague and it was a “sad day”.

Greens co-leaders arrive at a press conference about Golriz Ghahraman's resignation.

“This is a big loss … we will continue to uphold her legacy and mahi.

“We just have aroha and sadness for the value of her kaupapa and her as a person and she was a part of our team.”

Davidson acknowledged Scotties Boutique — one of the places Ghahraman faced accusations of shoplifting — who had communicated openly and generously with the Green Party, and acknowledged their “distress” from the situation.

Davidson said the party welcomed Celia Wade-Brown to the caucus as the next person on the party list but regretted the “sad circumstances” under which she was coming to Parliament.

Shaw said the party did not have any details on whether items had been returned but noted that Ghahraman had been “very” cooperative in investigations.

Asked if the co-leaders were aware of any mental distress from Ghahraman before the allegations, Shaw said it would not be appropriate for them to comment on the mental health condition of MPs.

He said professional help was available to Green MPs.