Roast Busters outcry prompts Ministry of Education to introduce new guidelines for schools

A positive change could emerge from the Roast Busters scandal, a victim advocate says, as the Ministry of Education plans new sex education guidelines for schools.

Police announced on Wednesday that after a 12-month investigation into allegations of rape and underage sex against a group of West Auckland youths known as the Roast Busters, no charges would be laid.

They said a lack of hard evidence against the alleged offenders was the main factor in their inability to prosecute.

Rape Prevention Education survivor advocate Louise Nicholas said the Roast Busters case highlighted the need to educate young people about their sexual rights, and how to get help.

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"If there's a light at the end of the tunnel, that will be what it [the Roast Busters publicity] has done for the public of New Zealand," Mrs Nicholas said.

"It's brought about that awareness. We've got to continue that ... and educate about safer sexual relationships and all that. It's highlighted a huge gap in the need for education in schools."

Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus, head of the Roast Busters investigation, also voiced concerns over the "poor understanding" of consent -- particularly when alcohol was involved.

She said males and females spoken to during the investigation did not appear to understand what could impair their ability to form or give consent.

"It is suggested that sexual education programmes may be enhanced by raising the emphasis around the issues of consent, particularly when linked to alcohol and drugs and the ability of individuals to provide informed consent."

As a result of the investigation, police and the Ministry of Education launched a programme in schools this year called Love Me Not, focusing on educating young people about exploitative peer-based relationships.

ACC later launched a pilot programme called Mates & Dates, designed to teach young people how to have healthy relationships based on respect, negotiation and consent, to identify inappropriate behaviour and to get help.

The pilot kicked off in Term 3 and is taught by specialist facilitators.

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After Wednesday's announcement and the concerns raised by police about education, the ministry confirmed it was updating existing sexuality education guidelines for schools.

"Issues of consent, coercion and safety in intimate relationships will be included in the new guidelines, which should be released soon," said deputy secretary for student achievement Graham Stoop.

Health education including sex education was part of the curriculum, but Mr Stoop said each school in New Zealand was free to make its own decision about what sex education programmes best fitted the needs of its students.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said everyone wanted to see young people involved in relationships "that are healthy and where there's obvious respect and care for one another".

"It's really important this begins from an early stage so parents clearly have the most significant role to play. But the Government's also committed to doing its part to stop sexual violence and encourage healthy relationships."

Partying 'deeply chilling'

Police said the prevalence of alcohol in the lives of the young people they spoke to during the Roast Busters investigation was a concern.

"There was regular mention of parties in which hard liquor was consumed by teenagers as young as 13," Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus said.

"The level of inebriation described during informal disclosures, including becoming comatose, was shocking to hear.

"The presence of supervising adults at such parties did not seem to be a regular occurrence," she added.

Ms Malthus said at one party discussed, a "significant amount" of alcohol was consumed, and "numerous" incidents of sexual activity occurred.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said the police report was "deeply chilling".