20 Mar 2015

Law Commission to use 'Roastbusters' report

6:44 pm on 20 March 2015

The Law Commission will use a report that heavily criticises the police investigation of an Auckland teen sex ring as it tries to find ways to get better justice for victims of abuse.

Police following release of IPCA report

Police - including Police Commissioner Mike Bush (centre) - following yesterday's release of the IPCA report Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

An Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report slammed the police's handling of the case, saying the victims were let down by a number of failures - including to look at all the possible prosecution options.

Read the IPCA's report (PDF, 601KB)

Justice campaigners said more sweeping change was needed.

Some have launched an online petition calling for police to reconsider laying charges against the young men, who called themselves the Roastbusters.

The Law Commission in November resumed looking into ways to make it easier for sex abuse victims to give evidence in court, after the Government put a halt to the work in 2012.

Its president Sir Grant Hammond said they planned on meeting with police soon.

"We're looking, amongst other things, how they do it at the moment and obviously the Roastbusters report is very helpful in pointing out the deficiencies in that."

Sir Grant said the IPCA report also highlighted how difficult it was for sex abuse victims to get justice, with only one in five ever reporting their assault to police in the first place.

"We need to look at why that is, and in part of course, the police handling of complaints is relevant to that."

Julia Whaipooti, co-chair of youth law advocacy group Just Speak

Julia Whaipooti - co-chair of youth law advocacy group Just Speak Photo: SUPPLIED

As one idea, the commission is looking at creating a specialist sexual offences court.

But the co-chair of the youth justice reform group Just Speak, Julia Whaipooti, said only a radical overhaul of the whole judicial system and a change in attitudes toward rape and abuse would make any real difference.

"If we had a more restorative approach we could have a better insight into why these boys thought that that behaviour was appropriate," she said.

"Why was that okay and why did that go on for so long before society reacted?

"We need to look at ourselves as well. We have a cultural problem in society that says that it's okay somehow. Also the system itself isn't equipped to help victims through the process at all."

Auckland University psychology professor Nicola Gavey, who specialises in sexual violence, said the IPCA report showed police needed to take a look at their own attitudes towards women and what defined consent.

"They do need to come up with some way of really bringing home the importance of closing down that sort of attitudes that trivialise and normalise a lot of sexual violence.

"I mean those attitudes are quite widespread throughout the community so it's not surprising they're in the police as well. But they have no place in the police force."

The police have publicly apologised to the victims of the teen sex ring but justice campaigners said that was not enough.

In the last 24 hours, nearly 2000 people have signed an online petition on ActionStation.org.nz calling for the police to reconsider laying charges.

Action Station campaign manager Nicole Skews said the IPCA's report provided plenty of ground for that.

"All that's happened so far is that they've basically said 'this was a massive stuff up and we're very sorry' and we don't think that's good enough because an apology isn't justice."

Police would not say whether they were reconsidering laying charges.

But, in a blog post, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said he could assure the public that the failings of a few staff at a point in time did not represent national practice.

He said he wanted to reassure victims that they could bring complaints to the police and that they would be investigated properly and fairly.

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