Editorial: High cost of false claims

By Dylan Thorne

It is easy to understand police frustration when it comes to the time spent investigating false complaints.

Last week, we reported that Bay police were fuming after wasting hundreds of hours and racking up a bill of nearly $25,000 investigating a Tauranga woman's false complaint she was raped by an intruder.

Amanda Aroha Phillips, aka Graham, 29, pleaded guilty to a charge of making a false complaint to police and was sentenced to six months' supervision and ordered to pay $1000 reparation in Tauranga District Court on Thursday.

She should consider herself lucky because police had sought $24,700 reparation, which included $11,900 for the forensic examinations.

As a result of her bogus complaint, a man, who had been socialising with Phillips, was treated as a suspect.

His life was turned upside down. His home searched, and he was extensively interviewed and voluntarily underwent a forensic medical examination.

The other major impact her complaint had was that it diverted police resources away from another incident in the city at the same time in which an intruder had entered a Tauranga address and beaten a female unconscious.

A police dog and handler tracking that offender was diverted from that job to the rape complaint.

A doctor forensically examined Phillips for three hours and 10 police officers worked on the case for a fortnight.

In my view, the sentence handed down to Phillips is not enough.

The reparation payment ordered by the court only covered a fraction of the cost of the investigation.

It does not reflect the complete waste of limited police resources or the impact the false complaint had on the man who became the focus of the investigation.

False complaints of this nature are also damaging for real victims of crimes.

However, it is a mark of the professionalism of police that, while expressing frustration with this particular case, they were at pains to reassure the community it would not affect how they handled future cases.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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