Police response to rape allegations 'should have been sharper', commissioner concedes to MPs' panel

The Police Commissioner has been grilled by MPs over the handling of the Roast Busters rape allegations, conceding it should have been "sharper".

And Commissioner Peter Marshall revealed he welcomed Police Minister Anne Tolley's requesting an Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation into the now high-profile saga.

Police have been investigating a group of teenage boys known as the Roast Busters since 2011, when a 13-year-old girl made a formal complaint against some of them.

Online, some of the boys had bragged about having sex with drunk and underage girls.


Yesterday, Mr Marshall was grilled by a select committee in Wellington about the police response to the case.

Asked for his assessment of the police response, the commissioner said: "Certainly, the situation involving the initial response - that there hadn't been a complaint and then we found there had been a complaint - was something that we should have been sharper on in terms of communication.

"That excited, naturally, the members of the public, and we accept that."

The Roast Busters investigation is ongoing and is now being led by Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus, who has experience in dealing with sexual abuse cases involving young people.

Waitemata police spokeswoman Beth Bates said no specific information could be released about the investigation.

Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales are members of the Roast Busters.
Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales are members of the Roast Busters.

"The investigation is progressing well and our focus is still on speaking to a number of girls," she said.

"It continues to be a very delicate investigation with a great deal of care required, and the privacy of the girls and their families is paramount."

Police Minister Anne Tolley referred the Roast Busters case to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which is now investigating whether police botched the handling of the case or conducted a thorough and appropriate inquiry, as they maintain.


The authority has said it is "unable to comment on timeframes or specific details of the case".

Ms Tolley's request was unprecedented - but Mr Marshall said he welcomed it. He maintained the integrity of the investigation was sound, but the communication of the information to the public was not up to scratch.

"I look forward to the report," he said. "We're just focused on the investigation."

Labour police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern, who led the questions yesterday, was pleased with Mr Marshall's response.

"When these kinds of situations arise, the public makes as much of a judgment over the handling of it as they do the issue itself," she said last night.

"And in this case there certainly were failings, and the Commissioner has acknowledged that."

Ms Ardern was confident the police were doing their best to resolve the case.

At the select committee yesterday Ms Ardern pointed to a drop in public confidence in the police since the Roast Busters case, which a survey showed had fallen from 82 per cent to 76 per cent.

But Mr Marshall defended this record, saying that the survey often fluctuated, had a margin of error of 3 per cent, and was roughly the same as this time last year.

The commissioner, who will soon finish his tenure, said the case was not a blot on his legacy because crime and road deaths had dropped steadily under his watch.

"I'm very bullish about what police have achieved, I think the New Zealand public is well served by this place."

How the story unfolded

Nov 3: Videos of boys in the Roast Busters group show them laughing and bragging about having sex with drunk and underage girls.

• Police say they have known about the group since 2011 but could not do anything until a girl was "brave enough" to make a formal complaint.

Nov 6: A 15-year-old girl comes forward to say she laid a formal complaint to police two years ago - when she was 13. Police later confirm this is true. Labour calls for an independent review into the police's handling of the matter.

Nov 7: After calls for action, Police Minister Anne Tolley announces that the Independent Police Conduct Authority will investigate.

Nov 16: Nationwide protests take place, with hundreds calling for an end to the country's "rape culture".

Nov 17: A girl who says she made a complaint to police two years ago reveals she has made a second complaint after the Roast Busters scandal.

Nov 21: A petition is presented to MPs outside Parliament with more than 110,000 signatures calling for more action for the victims of the Roast Busters.