The Roastbusters report

The IPCA has said:

An Independent Conduct Authority report released today has found a number of significant deficiencies in the original Police investigations into the alleged offending  by a group of young men in Auckland who called themselves the ‘Roastbusters’.

Details to come.

“The supervisory oversight of the individual cases was inadequate and the investigating staff failed to properly consider all available offences in determining whether or not to prosecute the young men,” Sir David said.

This is perhaps the key area.

“The Authority found that all of the Police officers involved treated the young women and their families with courtesy and compassion and maintained good contact with them.

“However, the officers’ contact and interaction with the young men who were the subjects of the investigations and their families was inadequate or non-existent. The failure of Police to make contact meant the young men’s parents were never made aware of several of the incidents and details of their sons’ involvement and therefore they were unable to intervene or act to address the behaviour.”

That’s bad. Even if you can’t charge them, you should be letting the parents know there have been complaints.

“Despite the failings in this case, the Authority has not found any evidence of ongoing and widespread poor practice nationally in the Police investigation or prosecution of child abuse or sexual assault cases.

Somewhat reassuring.

From the report:

However, it is concerned that in several of the cases, because officers concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed without the cooperation of the young women, they decided that no further action was required. They therefore overlooked the importance of holding the young men accountable for their behaviour and preventing its recurrence.

In other words just because you can’t charge them, doesn’t mean you can’t do something else.

Under section 134 of the Crimes Act 1961, everyone11 who has a sexual connection with, or does an indecent act on, a young person (under the age of 16 years) has committed an offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment (see paragraph 132). There is no question that these young men were aware that the young women involved in the six cases investigated by CPT staff were under 16 years. As a result of their interaction with Police officers, it is also evident that several of the young men (certainly by the time the investigation into Case 1 had concluded) were aware that they were committing an offence, irrespective of their own ages.

Officer D told the Authority that he and Officer C determined that prosecutions under section 134 were “inappropriate” because two of the three young men were under 16 at the time of the offending. He added that section 134 is intended for “consenting parties” and that, if it had been used to bring a prosecution in Case 3, it would have implied that the Police did not believe the victim’s initial account that she was not consenting.

The Authority does not accept the validity of this reasoning, as there were a number of aggravating features in these cases that should have prompted consideration of such a prosecution. In four of these cases the young women were between two and three years younger than the young men involved. They were vulnerable (due to factors such as their level of intoxication); the extent to which they were willing parties was at best equivocal; and they were subject to sexual acts by more than one young man. The behaviour of the young men was demonstrably unacceptable and required a response.

This is where the Police really stuffed up. They misunderstood the law with their reasoning that they could not use s134 because consent was disputed. That’s a really basic error, and while not every police officer will know the law well – they should have supervisors and a checking process that would have picked this up.

In our view, the fact that the parties are close together in age, while a relevant factor, is not determinative. Moreover, it is perverse to conclude that a prosecution for sexual violation cannot be brought because there is insufficient evidence to prove lack of consent beyond reasonable doubt, but then to reject a prosecution under section 134 on the basis that it would imply the existence of consent. The reality is that a prosecution under section 134 says nothing about the presence or absence of consent, because it is simply irrelevant to the facts that need to be proved.

And a prosecution under s134 would almost certainly have been successful as consent is not a factor.

The report is quite damning of Waitemata Police. The failings were significant enough that disciplinary action should be considered for the officers involved.

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