Roast Busters: New vigilante group promises justice

By Patrice Dougan

Employer, vigilante dads and police all take aim at underage girls' abusers.

Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales have boasted  online of their actions.
Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales have boasted online of their actions.

Another vigilante group has sprung up on Facebook calling for the "Roast Busters" group to be held to account.

Police say they're powerless to act against the group of boys from West Auckland, who boasted online about stupefying teenage girls, then having sex with them.

It is understood at least one of the girls who got involved with the group has attempted suicide.

Detective Inspector Bruce Scott has insisted the group had been "vigorously investigated" but that there's nothing more police can do to take the case to court unless one of the girls lays an official complaint.

That's led to an outcry and the establishment of online groups promising their own brand of justice.

The new vigilante group set up offers a "4k reward for footage of Roastbusters getting hidings''.

"Will pay for footage of the RoastBusters being taken care of. We do not encourage violence, simply if you happen to have footage, we'll buy it from you. Just as a news channel would ...''

A post last night said: "Private message once you have footage. Preferably HD. If you are unable to help with the video but would also like to see the footage please spread the word to make finding footage more likely.''

One man last night said there were at least 52 "irate, angry fathers" ready to dish out their own brand of justice.

He said feeling in the community was so strong that he had received phonecalls from gang members wanting to get involved.

"We are not law breakers or criminals, we are just fathers. The scum has entered our streets, the police have allowed the scum to carry on, and now shit's going to hit the fan, and spray all over the police and all over the people's families, unless the police themselves jump up and take responsibility."

Police are expected to make a statement this afternoon regarding the vigilante behaviour.

Online tormentor loses job

One of the young men at the centre of the "Roast Busters" sex scandal has been sacked for his "despicable behaviour", as police come under growing pressure to take action.

Joseph Levall Parker, son of Hollywood actor Anthony Ray Parker, was fired from his job in an Auckland real estate office amid the outcry over the group's online boasts.

Yesterday, one group member made an anonymous apology on Facebook and two others came forward to police.

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Joseph Parker didn't show up at work yesterday but his manager said he had since been fired. The boss said he acted in the "strongest possible fashion" once he learned of the youth's association with the group.

Anthony Parker, Joseph's brother, worked in the same office and didn't show up yesterday either. The manager said Anthony would get the "opportunity to provide evidence he has had no part to play in this despicable behaviour", or he too would be sacked.

Famous dad: It's a "family matter"

Anthony Ray Parker.
Anthony Ray Parker.

According to Anthony Parker's Facebook page, he became a dad on Sunday night, when the scandal broke. Last night, he had changed his work status to self-employed. He did not respond to a message requesting comment and his brother closed down his Facebook page yesterday.

It is not known how many people are part of the Roast Busters group, but Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales boasted of their involvement in a video posted online.

Last night police had confirmed one of the members of the group was the son of an officer.

The Parker brothers' father, Anthony Ray, appeared in The Matrix, among other films.

His NZ agent, Gail Cowan, said he wanted privacy and "has no interest in speaking to the media".

This morning TV3 reported he'd said through his agent it was a "family matter".

Police: Why we can't intervene

The group appears to have been based in West Auckland, with members going to schools including Green Bay High and Avondale College.

A Facebook page also mentioned Kelston Boys High School (KBHS), but Principal Brian Evans said this afternoon that the school was not linked to the Roast Busters

Police have confirmed that KBHS was never part of their two-year investigation into the Roast Busters, he said.

Police had been monitoring the Roast Busters Facebook page for two years and had been in touch with schools those involved used to attend.

Detective Inspector Bruce Scott of Waitemata Police said the page had been left open for "operational and tactical reasons''.

"Whilst we acknowledge it was upsetting for the victims, it was being monitored for information or evidence that would assist our investigation,'' he said.

He insisted the group had been "vigorously investigated'' but that there was nothing more police could have done to bring a case to court.

"We continue to look for evidence that will assist us in determining whether there has been any criminal offending and then once we've got this evidence we can make a determination on what our next move is,'' he said.

"We continue to talk with girls involved in the group. The difficulty is that we don't want to re-victimise the girls, some of them don't wish to engage with us and we can't push them to talk to the police.''

Mr Scott told 3 News the fact that one of those involved in the Roast Busters' page was the son of a police officer had not influenced the inquiry or the decision not to prosecute.

Involvement of a police officer's son

Auckland police have rejected suggestions an inquiry into the "Roast Busters" group was affected by the involvement of a police officer's son.

Waitemata police district commander Superintendent Bill Searle said any allegations of criminal offending by police officers or their families were taken extremely seriously. "Recent cases have highlighted that police will not hesitate to thoroughly investigate staff facing allegations of a criminal nature and will put them before the court if there is a case to answer."

The investigation into the group's actions continues. Two of the young men spoke with police yesterday afternoon and that information is now being assessed by the enquiry team.

A Senior Detective independent from the investigation has been brought in from outside the Waitemata District to provide extra support, Mr Searle said.

Police were aware of a number of social media sites created by vigilante groups threatening violence towards members of the Roast Busters group and cautioned them against taking the law into their own hands.

"We understand the outrage that this group has caused, however violence will not be tolerated and we will take firm action against anyone inciting, threatening or using violence against these people," Mr Searle said.

Police yesterday confirmed one of the men involved in the group was an officer's son.

Minister: Changes on the way

Justice Minister Judith Collins told Radio New Zealand anti cyber-bullying legislation being introduced to Parliament today would give victims of groups like the Roast Busters a "safe haven'' to lay a complaint.

Under the legislation victims would have the ability to get help from an advocate such as NetSafe who would then be able to intercede and get the host website to remove the posts.

"In addition to that, if it needs to go further, then a district court will be able to order those items removed. That means that victims now have somewhere to go, because most of the victims that we're talking about are teenagers who generally don't know where to go.

"They don't want to go to their parents because generally the bullying includes pictures of them doing things they don't want their parents to see, but also they don't want to tell their teachers. This gives them something else - it gives them a safe haven.''

Ms Collins said a representative from Facebook had emailed her this morning about the Roast Busters page.

They had said content that bullies and harasses people was a violation of their statement of rights and responsibilities.

They said the page was removed shortly after it was reported to them for harassment, Ms Collins said.

Key: Actions "abhorrent"

Prime Minister John Key has called the Roast Busters' actions "disturbing" and "abhorrent", and says he has enormous confidence that the police are thoroughly professional.

"If there is criminal wrongdoing that they can follow up on and take action, then I'm absolutely confident that they'll do their job and do it as ... thoroughly professionally."

"I can't tell you why they haven't taken action, other than I can only accept what I've seen them publicly saying; which is they haven't been in a position to actually legally press charges.

"That's of course one of the challenges in these areas for the police, is that you require someone to actually come forward. And the counter argument there is that is extremely difficult terrain for a young woman. I mean she'll be of an age that's both a- underage, b- she'd have to go through all that public process. It's really difficult for these young women coming forward, so you can kind of see the bind that the police are potentially in," Mr Key told TV3's Firstline.

He was wary of threats by a group of vigilante men to take matters into their own hands if police couldn't bring the Roast Busters to justice.

"Well you certainly wouldn't want people taking the law into their own hands because that's not going to resolve issues in a proper way, and in a way that we would like to see things handled. [That] is the domain and responsibility of the police.

Mr Key said the whole situation was very disturbing. "You're talking firstly about young girls who are in a very delicate age. Some of this behaviour looks to be illegal, certainly if they're having sex with a young girl under the age of 16 - that's against the law.

"And then to be essentially doing a form of what looks like cyber bullying to me and posting this information on a Facebook site will also be illegal under the new legislation we're bringing into the House today."

Rape survivor: Victims need support

Many of the girls targeted by the Roast Busters will be struggling against self-harm and suicidal thoughts, say those involved in helping rape victims.

Kim McGregor, executive director of Rape Prevention Education, formerly Rape Crisis Auckland, said severe depression, self-harm and suicidal tendencies were common among victims of sexual violence.

Ms McGregor said the young men's bragging on social media had only "increased the reach of the humiliation'' dealt out to the girls.

"These young men seem to be incredibly misogynistic, they seem to be out to humiliate young women and to spread the humiliation as far as they can, so using social media to do that,'' she said.

Rape victims advocate Louise Nicholas said what the boys had done was "beyond comprehension'', and they "need to be stopped''.

"The fact it's been put on social media is absolutely barbaric, and that will be the reason why the girls don't want to come forward, because they will be feeling a lot of shame, and a lot of blame, the rape myths will be going on in their own heads,'' she said.

"We can only put it out to them that it's absolutely not, they were absolutely not able to consent.''

Ms Nicholas took police to court for raping her as a teenager and now advises officers how to deal with complaints of rape and sexual violence.

She said it was the law rather than police inactivity stopping officers bringing the Roast Busters to account.

She said it was important the girls knew they would be supported and receive full name suppression if they choose to make a formal complaint.

Copycat concerns

The School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr said the issue was a concern for all school boards.

There appeared to be a disconnect between schools, principals, boards, students and parents with nobody discussing the Roast Busters' activities, she told Radio New Zealand.

There was also a concern of copycat behaviour by other teenagers.

"As far as we know it's only in one area but it's likely to spread, and that in itself is another worry."

The girls who were involved needed to find the courage to come forward and make a complaint to police, "otherwise it will keep happening", Ms Kerr said.

The association would work on trying to help the victims, she said.

A bill which aims to stop cyber bullying by groups such as the Roast Busters will be introduced to Parliament today. Read more here.

- APNZ

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