Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Site claims Roast Busters link

Under-age sex scandal widens as school head calls in police and death threats appear.

Roast Busters members Beraiah Hales (right) and Joseph Lavell Parker in pictures from Hales' Instagram account.
Roast Busters members Beraiah Hales (right) and Joseph Lavell Parker in pictures from Hales' Instagram account.

Police have been called after at least one copycat Facebook group appeared following the Roast Busters underage sex scandal.

The page had links to an Auckland school, prompting staff to call police.

It had been taken down last night.

Members of the original Roast Busters group, which bragged about getting girls drunk and having sex with them, went to ground yesterday in the face of mounting anger, including online death threats against them.

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Police have drafted in a senior officer from outside Auckland to go over the case.

The copycat group appeared to be a "Mount Albert chapter" of Roast Busters, and was linked to Mount Albert Grammar School, principal Dale Burden said last night.

He said school staff were alerted to the page by a concerned parent on Monday night.

Three or four of his students and a former student were members.

"It was delinquent talk, is the best way to describe it, but it was connected to the Roast Busters site," Mr Burden said.

Mr Burden suspected it was a copycat group and contacted police.

The page was closed down yesterday but it was not known if the closure was voluntary or if authorities had taken action.

Mr Burden said it disappeared soon after he contacted police.

The Roast Busters caused outrage by bragging on their Facebook page about getting underage girls drunk and having sex with them.

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Members include Joseph Levall Parker, son of Hollywood actor Anthony Ray Parker, Beraiah Hales and another who police have confirmed is the son of a police officer.

The Roast Busters Facebook page and the profile pages of some members - who are said to have targeted girls as young as 13 - have been taken down since news of their activities broke on Sunday.

Death threats against them have been made on social media, and vigilante groups and online forums have called for harsh action.

Police said they were taking the threats seriously and warned vigilantes against taking the law into their own hands.

The Waitemata police district commander, Superintendent Bill Searle, said his team was willing to offer protection to the young men if the threats against them escalated.

"If the situation they find themselves in warranted us to take action, then we would, irrespective of who they are or what they may have been involved in," he said.

But he was not aware of any of them asking for help from police.

"We haven't got any evidence that suggests we need to take any extra action," he said.

The occupants of the West Auckland home where it is understood Parker lives would not open the door yesterday and told reporters to leave or the police would be called.

A middle-aged woman and man, dressed in hoodies and dark sunglasses, left the house, got into cars parked outside and drove off.

A younger man and woman left a short time later, the woman carrying a small baby.

The man said Joseph Parker was not there and he did not know where he was or when he'd be back.

One neighbour, who did not want to be named, was shocked to learn of Joseph Parker's actions.

"He's so young," the person said.

Joseph and his friends were often seen hanging out on weekends at the nondescript suburban house at the end of a cul-de-sac.

The neighbour had seen his famous father at the house about a week ago, carrying flowers.

Police have re-interviewed two members of the group, including one who had refused to co-operate.

Mr Searle said while the information had yet to provide any new leads, it was still being analysed.

No new claims from victims had been raised since Sunday but police were still in contact with girls from the original inquiry.

None wanted to make formal complaints.

An independent senior police officer has been drafted in to help the team and cast a "fresh set of eyes" over the information gleaned.

Mr Searle denied this had been prompted by criticism the police had failed to act.

He said the inquiry was not affected by the involvement of a police officer's son in the Roast Busters' group.

"[I] absolutely refute any suggestion that we would deal with the matter any differently if a police officer is involved," he told TV3's Firstline.

"I think the police has a strong track record in recent years, and particularly my district, where police officers do anything inappropriate or criminal we are very quick to investigate them thoroughly."

Female mates: 'They're good guys'

Female friends of the Roast Busters have told 3News the group's behaviour was nothing more than normal teen antics.

"They are good guys.

"They can make really dumb decisions but they are being teenagers,'' one friend who did not want to be named said.

Feminist blogger Deborah Russell told Newstalk ZB it was unsurprising there would be supporters of the group because of the country's "rape culture''.

"It's a whole attitude of boys and men that girls are here to be exploited and it's their task as men just to do that.''

The internet had facilitated in the group being able to brag about their behaviour openly, she said.

Justice Minister Judith Collins told TVNZ's Breakfast show that posting online videos in order to embarrass or humiliate people was something that would be covered by a new cyber-bullying bill that was going through Parliament.

The bill would target the most serious type of bullying that sometimes led victims to commit suicide, Ms Collins said.

She would not speak specifically about the Roast Busters while a police investigation was underway.

Labour leader and New Lynn MP David Cunliffe said it is too hard for women to come forward to police.

"I am also shocked that in all my regular contact with the west Auckland police that I haven't been alerted as a local MP to the fact that this was going on in schools in my own area," he told TV3's Firstline.

It's part of toxic 'rape culture' expert

An expert in gender issues and sexual violence says the Roast Busters' actions will have a devastating effect on the girls involved.

And, it was unlikely they would make a complaint to police, because of the "blinkered victim-blaming attitudes" expressed by many in the community.

Associate Professor Nicola Gavey from the University of Auckland said the Roast Busters phenomenon was toxic - and part of a growing international "rape culture".

"Girls who have been abused by these boys are probably facing every day with courage," she said.

"The boys give an impression - probably a false facade - of Teflon-coated masculinities, powerful, wilful and invulnerable.

"This degree of public surveillance and judgement couldn't help but create an intimidating social environment for girls."

She said they would be going to school with their friends and" having too much of the hurtful personal details of your intimate life unwillingly opened up for other people's eyes and opinions".

"Surely the justice system response needs to be more proactive and creative," she said. "Isolated as individuals, they are incredibly vulnerable. Already there is victim-blaming chatter on teenage social networking sites which naively casts responsibility on the girls for 'knowing what they were getting into'."

It was that attitude that would put the girls off coming forward.

Ms Gavey said the other worrying attitude was that of how men saw women. She said that from many forms of media, including pornography and music lyrics, young men adopted the attitude that women were "props" for their sexual pleasure.

- APNZ

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