The mishandling of a school yard incident where a young woman was bullied by an alleged sexual offender for making a complaint against him are among a litany of police failures in the Roast Busters case.
Police yesterday apologised to the young women at the centre of the scandal, after the Independent Police Conduct Authority [IPCA] identified a slew of inadequacies in basic police work from seven cases it reviewed.
The report comes after the IPCA received complaints about police investigations in November 2013 into the Roast Busters group - made up of predominantly West Auckland youths who bragged on social media about having sex with drunk and underage girls.
The failures identified in the IPCA report include:
Incorrectly recording the names and details of the young men identified in complaints in the police database and Child, Youth and Family referrals. Had details and names been adequately recorded, subsequent complaints may have been taken more seriously.
One officer's conclusion regarding a complainant's "mindset" and motivations were based on texts which he said were sent to her. The IPCA found the officer never actually saw any cell phone data from the young woman.
Police attitude towards the complaints resulted in prosecutions being deemed "inappropriate", despite the legal threshold for sexual conduct offences being met. "Critically, the offence of sexual conduct with a young person under 16 did not require police to determine there was consent," the report stated. "They merely had to prove that sexual connection had occurred and that the complainant was under 16 at the time."
The IPCA said while it was uncommon for police to prosecute a young person for sexual connection with someone of similar age as both individuals often consented, the IPCA did not "accept the validity of this reasoning" for these cases. There had been a number of aggravating features - including the two-to-three-year age gap between victims and alleged perpetrators in four cases - which warranted that prosecution be considered. The report also cited the failure by police to speak to the parents of the young men identified by complainants in four of the cases, despite requests from the parents of the young women and the secondary school involved.
In another incident, police gave only a verbal warning to an alleged perpetrator for attempting to bully a complainant to withdraw her complaint against him immediately after suspect interviews took place. The young woman was at school when the incident occurred. Two officers gave the man a verbal warning for attempting to pervert the course of justice. They did not notify his parents.
Overall, the IPCA report showed serious problems in the police handling of the Roast Busters complaints.
Officers failed to pursue positive lines of inquiry, did not identify connections between incidents and "opportunities or interventions to prevent re-victimisation" were not considered. "Victims were let down by their failure to do so," IPCA chairman Judge David Carruthers said.
The actions of Child, Youth and Family over the complaints also came under scrutiny, with problems in the agency's record-keeping and follow-up process highlighted.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, who was police minister when the Roast Buster complaints were laid, yesterday announced an investigation into CYF's involvement in the case.
Waitemata district commander Superintendent Bill Searle and Police Commissioner Mike Bush both admitted the standard of police work in the case had been unacceptable.
"I'd like to publicly apologise to the young women and their families for the trauma that has been caused to them," Mr Searle said.
"I will arrange to do this in person, depending on their wishes. We clearly let the victims down."
The standard of investigation in these cases "fell far short" of what was rightly expected, Mr Bush said.
• Carry out an audit of current cases being investigated by the Waitemata child protection team, to determine if any "individual shortcomings" still remained.
• Determine whether any practice or policy issues needed to be addressed, nationally and in Waitemata.
• Ensure police are properly taught about laws relating to sexual offending.
Source: The Independent Police Conduct Authority
Additional reporting: NZME., Nicholas Jones