Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

'Roast Busters' victims urged to come forward

Roast Buster members Joseph Lavell Parker (left) and Beraiah Hales. Photo / Facebook
Roast Buster members Joseph Lavell Parker (left) and Beraiah Hales. Photo / Facebook

Justice Minister Judith Collins and Police Minister Anne Tolley have urged the young female victims of the Roast Busters sex gang to find the courage come forward and give evidence.

Both ministers referred to comments by rape victims advocate Louise Nicholas, who yesterday tried to assure victims that there would be support for any of the girls who came forward.

Mr Collins told reporters at Parliament she agreed with Ms Nicholas "because certainly the police response has greatly changed and there are now mechanisms in place to help protect victims".

Ms Tolley echoed that, say there was now "an enormous amount of support".

"I know that police have been making sure that was available to these young girls, but it is a very difficult thing for young women to come forward and talk about what has happened to them.

"It's embarrassing; it's frightening; the legal system itself can be overwhelming so I think we just have to continue to urge them and their families to get the courage to come forward and enable the police to take a case against these young men."

Various members of the groups have posted video clips about their sexual exploits with intoxicated young girls on the internet, although Facebook contacted Ms Collins office to say it had taken them down.

She said she had been assured by the Police Commissioner that the police had tried as hard as they could to get enough evidence to bring the young men to some form of trial.

She had also been assured that the fact that a police officer's son had been involved with the group had not affected the police investigation in any way.

She did not know where the police officer parent worked and does not want to know.

"It's an on-going investigation, an open investigation and the last thing we need is politicians trying to get involved in that."

Ms Collins faced questions today about why she rejected recommendations by the Law Commission to allow an inquisitorial regime in court for victims of sexual offences giving evidence.

She said she rejected it because it would establish an entirely different system of law for sex trials than for other offences such as kidnapping, which was often a charge in conjunction with sex charges.

"This would actually re-victimise victims by making them have to give evidence twice, not once."

In response to criticism from Labour's Andrew Little for her response to the Roast Busters, she said a bill she introduced to Parliament yesterday, the Harmful Digital Communications Bill, addressed cyber bullying. She said it was announced in April and was always been scheduled to be introduced yesterday.

"I don't think you could ever say that a piece of legislation could stop criminal offending. If it did, the law we have against murder would have stopped all murders."

Among the bill's measures, anyone who posts harmful content on the internet - such as intimate videos - without the consent of the subject could face a $2000 fine or three months imprisonment.

She said the bill did not deal with sexual violation but with cyber bullying which was a more dangerous form of bullying than schoolyard bullying of old and was intended to change behaviours.

"Now if the select committee comes back to me and says that they want to increase the penalties, I am very willing to look at it."

She said comments by Opposition politicians about the Roast Busters group and police investigation were irresponsible and could jeopardise any future trial.

She would not comment on the story specifically but said: "Pack sexual intercourse with a young girl is always abhorrent. It was abhorrent 20 years ago when it was happening; it was abhorrent 50 years ago when it was happening. It has always happened. It has never been acceptable and nowadays we have got video recording on all of the cell phones and that makes it easy for cyber bullying and other forms of bullying to occur as well.

- NZ Herald

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