Pam Corkery: Heads must roll or vigilantism will be inevitable

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Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales.
Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales.

Police and ministerial heads must roll over the Roast Busters horror.

The alternative is that we kiss goodbye to police help when girls and women raise allegations of sexual attacks.

If no one in authority is held accountable then we must also prepare for vigilantism as an unwelcome but understandable follow on.

Yet both the Police Commissioner and the minister responsible are emphatic that no one will resign or be sacked.

The butt-covering came within hours of the Independent Police Conduct Authority starting its investigation into police handling of the Roast Busters group and the complainants.

We know the most detail about a 13-year-old girl who made it through to official complaint stage. She gave a videotaped description of being alone in a room with three older male teens. She alleged that one raped her while the others stood either side.

She told police she pleaded for her alleged attacker to stop and that he was eventually pulled off her by one of the other boys.

The incident is backed up by a voice report on the boys' Facebook page, broadcast to the nation last week.

The police ruled that the girl's statement didn't pass the evidential threshold. The girl reports that she had to defend her own behaviour.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall declared that while he hasn't watched the videotaped interview he is confident that the questioning was thoroughly professional.

As public outrage increased, officers revisited the girl asking her to repeat her allegation. They were turned away by the girl's mum.

Police didn't seek statements from the boys identified in the girl's initial complaint in 2011.

Their official stand is that without the girls being "brave", police are powerless to act.

The Prime Minister, the Police Minister and the police hierarchy have repeated this fiction, also sheeting it home to the girls to fix it.

This is an unacceptable burden to be placed on alleged victims; that they tidy up what has become a scandal in New Zealand, one that is attracting international headlines.

At the same time police have given safety advice to several young men while they are "actively working" to build a case against them.

One key figure, Joseph Parker, has left town. Before leaving, he went to the police, accompanied by his stepfather, and made a statement that seems to have passed the evidential threshold.

An intermediary of Joseph Parker's family gave the Herald on Sunday details that sound familiar: that Parker had pulled another boy off a 13-year-old-girl when the sex "had gone too far".

That information could have been gleaned by police two years ago, maybe preventing more girls being added to the Facebook bragging.

There has never been a time in our history when there has been such public outrage over rape allegations, and support for our nation's girls and women.

Teenage girls are petitioning the Prime Minister for justice for the alleged victims.

John Key initially said that the boys had to grow up; as if the Roast Busters are an older version of the Terrible Twos - a phase that will pass.

Police Commissioner Marshall tells New Zealanders to get some perspective. Justice Minister Judith Collins has scribbled what amounts to a fashion piece on girls' skirts.

This still leaves the onus for crime-solving with a still unknown number of teenage girls in Auckland.

Fail. Girls don't attack themselves. Bringing their attackers to task is the responsibility of official grown-ups.

When that doesn't happen as it should, someone in authority has to pay the price.

This is a crucial time for our country. No accountability could take us to a flashpoint.

- NZ Herald

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