The report of the commission of inquiry into police conduct, released three years ago, steered clear of commenting specifically on cases of gross sexual behaviour that had been heard in criminal courts.

Its 60 recommendations focused instead on implanting a culture in the police that would prevent a recurrence of such conduct. The then Police Minister, Annette King, decided more needed to be done for the victims of the alleged rape and misbehaviour.

She, therefore, set in train a secret Forum for Complaints of Police Conduct. What she expected from this is unclear. What she probably should have anticipated and what she bequeathed to the Key Government was the difficult question of compensation payments for the women.

Ms King doubtless thought speaking at such a forum would be a cathartic experience for the victims. It would be a means of restoring their dignity and aiding their rehabilitation.

Such an approach had, after all, enjoyed some success when victims of human rights violations spoke about their experiences to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Equally, however, such forums serve mainly to remind some people of their horrific experience. For others, they generate a heightened feeling that justice has still to be attained in full measure. Such people would not settle for, as one of the forum women put it, "a patronising pat on the shoulder".

Ms King seems to have been aware of some of the potential pitfalls. The secrecy of the forum suggests as much, as do reports that suggest the number of women who took part was kept to a relatively small number. Each was required to sign a confidentiality agreement and was unable to discuss the forum with anyone else.

Presumably, this was designed to sequester the undertaking. There was no open invitation to the 313 women who, according to Dame Margaret Bazley's report, made complaints of actual or threatened sexual assault by 222 police officers between 1979 and 2005.

Quite clearly, things have not gone to plan. The forum seems to have generated a sense of grievance, rather than reconciliation.

Its chairwoman, lawyer Rachael Brown, who met each of the women and recorded her testimony, recommended the Government pay "financial redress". This has now been rejected, with the Attorney-General saying there was no basis for a claim or payment, despite some of the allegations being proven in court.

Some of the women are vowing to fight on. However, their cause is not helped by the the ACC system, which makes it extremely difficult to sue individual police officers.

A letter to the forum women from the Solicitor-General, David Collins, QC, rather confirms that things have run awry. "I know this decision will be disappointing," he says. "I hope the opportunity to tell your story and be referred to additional services has been helpful."

For many of the women, that is obviously not the case. Their expectations have been raised, only to be deflated by a Government keen to brush away any talk of responsibility.

It knows, of course, that if compensation were granted to this small group of women, it would lead to significant expense, thanks to the inevitable claims of other victims. Dame Margaret's report found that in the 15-year period, there were 141 sexual assaults with sufficient evidence to lay criminal charges or take disciplinary action.

Given the high profile of some of these cases, Ms King doubtless thought some action was warranted. Her good intentions have, however, had doleful consequences. Not least, this has made it all the more difficult for some of the victims to put their experiences behind them.