The IPCA report into the Roast Busters case is so bad the Police have issued a public apology. It details systemic problems with how sexual violence was investigated throughout the Police hierarchy. The report itself points out the lack of shift from two previous reviews of Police practice in this area:
It is disturbing that several themes identified as a result of the Authority’s child abuse inquiry (such as deficiencies in investigative practices, file recording, collaboration with CYF, and case supervision) have, again, been highlighted in the Authority’s current investigation.IPCA identified seven cases involving the same young men that were brought to Police attention between February 2011 and April 2013. One case involved multiple alleged sexual assaults.
Deficiencies in Investigative Practices
NZ Police chose to stop investigating these cases when victims did not wish to proceed. The law is clear on this - victim's co-operation is helpful but not required. NZ Police failed to:
- either check whether the named young men were known to Police, or when they did recognise this, failed to consider whether there was a pattern of behaviour which was dangerous to the public. The IPCA Report calls this "the most significant failing identified in the Authority’s investigation."
- obtain statements from witnesses
- attempt to speak to or take statements from all of the young men involved in the incident
- make any enquiries that might have corroborated or refuted any inconsistencies between accounts
- adequately consider the evidence in relation to consent issues
- secure all available evidence, such as CCTV footage, cellular telephone data, and photographic and video images
- ensure investigations were completed in a timely way
- ensure officers interviewing witnesses knew case details
This comes up first in the Background section. NZ Police told the IPCA that four cases involving the Roast Busters young men had been reported to them. Upon file review, the IPCA in fact found seven.
In addition, NZ Police failed to:
- accurately record names or birth dates of the young people concerned, in particular the perpetrators. Some cases did not bother to record the young men's names at all; others missed out some young men.
- submit a final report at all in one case
- submit accurate final reports in other cases. This included failing to mention victims providing evidence, incorrectly stating victims had been in contact with CYF, incorrectly stating that victims had described activities as consensual
- remove their own biases - one case report included musings from the officer about the "mindset" of the victim which the IPCA describes as "tenuous and unfounded" (we can only guess at which delightful rape myth that might refer to)
- failure to identify corroborating evidence - on one occasion by three witnesses - which might assist with prosecution
NZ Police failed to:
- refer the young men to CYF, in line with protocols between NZ Police and CYF. Had they done so, access to offender treatment could have been offered as well as other interventions. Instead this happened just once, but the young man did not turn up to his appointment.
- link in with Youth Aid or the schools concerned at all
- contact the parents of the young men in person. In just one case, letters were sent to the young men's parents. The letters didn't reference other cases and did not mention offender treatment, merely informing the parents Police were taking no action on a complaint they'd received.
The report identifies one officer as providing inadequate supervision for his cases, including failing to identify the problems named above.
Lack of understanding of the law
The law regarding consent and alcohol in NZ states: "A person does not consent to sexual activity if the activity occurs while he or she is so affected by alcohol or some other drug that he or she cannot consent or refuse to consent to the activity."
I'm going to just quote the report's findings on this one:
In four of the cases, alcohol was known by investigating officers to have had an influence on the behaviour of the young women involved. In one case, the young woman passed out and awoke to find one of the young men on top of her. In another case, the young woman had no recollection of the incident, and was told a few hours later by one of the young men that “you were roasted and then passed out.” Material on these Police files reveals that the reported level of intoxication and the state of consciousness of the young women due to their alcohol consumption, and how this impacted on their capacity to consent, was an issue that was never adequately followed up by the officers. In some instances, it is apparent from the Authority’s interviews with the officers and from the files that it was not even considered.The law regarding age of consent in NZ states that someone cannot give consent if they are under 16. Sometimes this is not prosecuted, generally if both people involved in sexual contact are under 16 and it's not seen in the public interest.
The report concludes that wasn't the case for the Roast Busters incidents, as the levels of intoxication involved, the fact some of the young women were three years younger than the perpetrators, and the fact there were multiple perpetrators involved all indicate there should have been public interest in prosecution.
This is the stuff of nightmares. It's every bit as bad as we thought, way back in November 2013, when there were street protests and demonstrations and everyone in New Zealand was talking about what consent means and whether "boys will be boys" is an acceptable excuse for rape. When three independent reports in a row detail the same failings, it's not a few bad apples, it's a rotten system. Three strikes, you're out NZ Police.
The Police need reform, they need improvements in sexual violence practice to be measured and reported on, they need more training. They need to take sanctions against officers who treat sexual violence so cavalierly - if they want this to stop being a systemic problem. Top quality investigation of sexual violence cases need to be a key performance indicator at a District level, so the hierarchy take it seriously. Until their officers actually understand and implement the law, they should be reporting on their improvements to an impartial group which has the power to hire and fire.
One final note from me. This report says that the Police treated victims courteously and were motivated to act in their best interests, based on talking to the Police and reviewing documentation. The IPCA did not interview one victim, and while I can understand why there may well be no victims who would want to go anywhere near the Police again, this seems like a major oversight. I have no confidence that this incompetent a Police service is routinely treating victims well. I have no doubts some individual Police officers will be - and I'm sure this report is heartbreaking for the many NZ Police who want to prosecute sexual offenders appropriately - but the system needs correcting. Watch this space.