Catriona MacLennan: Police force fails NZ's women ... again

100 comments
Commissioner Peter Marshall briefs the media at Parliament yesterday  after meeting the Police Minister over the Roast Busters issue. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Commissioner Peter Marshall briefs the media at Parliament yesterday after meeting the Police Minister over the Roast Busters issue. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Yet again, the message from the New Zealand Police to New Zealand women is that the police will not protect women by enforcing sexual assault laws.

The Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct set up in 2004 investigated how the police had dealt with allegations of sexual assault by members of the police and their associates.

Dame Margaret Bazley's report, released in 2007, identified systemic issues and behavioural patterns within the police, and made 60 recommendations for change.

The public since that time has been assured that police culture and systems have improved, and that sexual offence victims can now have confidence that their complaints will be properly handled.

But there are reasons for querying whether that is really the case.

Many of Dame Margaret's recommendations have still not been implemented, even though they were made six years ago.

The 10-year monitoring programme set up by the Cabinet to check progress indicates that it is still extremely slow, raising questions about the police's commitment to change.

In 2011, the police said that they could not act when an Invercargill rapist moved next door to his victim. The man could see into the front window of the victim's flat, but the police claimed they had no power to prevent him from living there unless he committed another offence.

That was incorrect. All the police needed to do was to enforce the protection order which the woman already had against the man. The orders are broadly drafted and the situation would certainly have been covered by the order - if the police had been willing to do their job and take action.

Now, in the Roast Busters' situation, the police once again claim that for two years they have been unable to act.

They say that they have not had "sufficient evidence" to lay charges.

But laying charges is only one of several actions they could take.

Further, the police appear to be setting the bar extremely high in saying that they do not have sufficient evidence.

Why could what the boys wrote on Facebook not be used to lay charges ?

In the past, only two areas of the law required corroboration: rape and paternity.

These were both situations in which a woman's word was being relied on to obtain a conviction. The thinking behind the requirement for corroboration was that women could not be relied on without some independent piece of evidence.

Those laws no longer apply and it would be extremely concerning if the police were still, de facto, adopting such attitudes.

Here is a list of actions the police could have taken in response to the Roast Busters' activities:

1. Conduct a full investigation, rather than simply monitoring the situation.

2. Contact Facebook and arrange for the page to be removed so the girls did not continue to be revictimised in cyberspace for two years.

3. Act on the complaint laid by the 13-year-old woman two years ago and lay charges.

4. Have Police Youth Aid visit the boys to warn them about their behaviour and explain the law.

5. Visit the boys' parents and speak to them.

6. Visit the school and speak to the principal and have him or her speak to students to explain the law and the proper way to treat young women.

7. Publicise the Roast Busters' activity two years ago to put a stop to it.

8. Meet young women in the local area to warn them about what was happening and teach them to keep themselves safe.

9. Meet the parents of young women.

10. Obtain search warrants and search the boys' homes to check what evidence there is.

Members of the public do not have the same level of detail as the police about the Roast Busters situation.

But some charges the police could investigate laying are:

• Section 128 Crimes Act 1961 - sexual violation.

• Section 134 Crimes Act 1961 - sexual conduct with young person under 16.

• Section 135 Crimes Act 1961 - indecent assault.

• Section 194 Crimes Act 1961 - assault on a child.

• Section 197 Crimes Act 1961 - disabling (stupefying).

• Section 208 Crimes Act 1961 - detention without consent with intent to have sexual connection.

• Section 216G - making an intimate visual recording (if pictures were taken).

• Section 160 Sale of Liquor Act 1989 - purchasing or acquiring liquor with the intention of supplying it to a person under 18.

The police failure to act in this situation once again undermines the trust of women in the New Zealand Police.

How many additional young women have suffered sexual assaults in the past two years because the police failed to do their job?

Dialogue: Contributions are welcome and should be 600-800 words Send your submission to dialogue@nzherald.co.nz Text may be edited and used in digital formats as well as on paper

- NZ Herald

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 26 Dec 2014 22:09:09 Processing Time: 285ms