No charges laid: Responses to the 'Roast Busters' decision
Tue 11 Nov 2014
A range of responses to the Police decision not to lay charges against the "Roast Busters" group have been compiled below. Media coverage is ...
A range of responses to the Police decision not to lay charges against the "Roast Busters" group have been compiled below. Media coverage is listed at the end of the story.
Police announced on 29 October 2014 that after a 12 month investigation, no charges would be laid in relation to reports of sexual violence against several young women by a group of young men calling themselves the "Roast Busters."
Head of the investigation Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus said reasons for the decision not to prosecute included the evidential test as required under the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines, the wishes of individual victims, the admissible evidence available, the nature of the offence and the age of the parties at the time of the offending.
Some of the young women and parents involved spoke to media about the decision. The New Zealand Herald reported that the mother of a young woman who made a formal complaint was not satisfied with the decision and planned to meet a lawyer to discuss her options, saying "Furious, that doesn't even begin to describe what I'm feeling."
In late October, prior to the Police announcement, a 17 year old woman wrote an open letter about alleged abuses by one of the group when she was 14 years old, commissioned by Fairfax New Zealand. She wrote about her relationship with him, saying "He believed he could have anything he wanted, when he wanted it. The way I was treated, talked to and even looked at changed completely. I felt I couldn't ever express my feelings. I was trapped and forced into feeling as if 'I have to do this, I have to do as I'm told'. There became a pattern. I was there to fulfil his needs when he wanted." She was critical of the Police investigation, saying she had felt disbelieved and pressured into giving them information. Ultimately she gave up, declining to press charges.
The Police report on the investigation into the group commencing in 2013, Operation Clover, states that 30 male "persons of interest" and five suspects were identified. Three suspects were interviewed and two declined to be interviewed. 110 young women were canvassed to identify potential victims. Five young women made formal complaints to the Police during the investigation, in addition to two who had already made formal complaints. Police believe a further 25 young women are "believed to have been victims of some form of sexual offending" however they declined to provide formal statements to the Police.
In a blog post Where to after Operation Clover? University of Auckland academic Nicola Gavey wrote that two issues call for immediate attention: long overdue law reform and proactive social measures to clarify the ethical goal posts for sex. In relation to the legal system, she said, "The biggest issue, currently, is that the pursuit of justice relies on putting people who have been made vulnerable by the crime being tried through a potentially traumatising process. Their treatment in court by defence lawyers is often brutal, and it is not uncommon for women to describe the experience as like a second rape. This has to change." Noting that the formal complaints made to the Police were "clearly just the tip of the iceberg," Dr Gavey said "'rape culture' remains the elephant in the room." She urges us to "look in the cultural mirror" and reflect on how the behaviours are rooted in norms and behaviours that seem more ordinary and taken for granted.
Dr Deborah Russell from Massey University criticised the Police investigation, saying "... Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police Grant Nicholls asked, 'Where was the respect for these girls?' That’s a good question, given the lack of respect shown by the police themselves. Not investigating the first complaint, not taking steps to shut the Roast busters down, misleading the public about whether complaints had been laid, only beginning to investigate the complaints due to public outcry. All of this shows extraordinary disrespect for the girls."
Justice Minister Amy Adams said she had asked for a briefing from her officials about the proposal to establish a specialist sexual violence court. The Law Commission canvassed the idea in its review of trial and pre-trial processes with a view to improving the system’s fairness, efficiency and effectiveness. However Ms Adams' predecessor, Judith Collins, halted the review in 2012. The Green Party, Rape Prevention Education, Wellington Rape Crisis, the Mental Health Foundation and community advocates urged the Government to reinstate Law Commission's work.
The Ministry of Education said it has been working to update its existing sexuality education guidelines for schools, which will include issues of consent, coercion, and safety in intimate relationships and were expected to be released soon. Sexuality education is compulsory in New Zealand schools until the end of year 10, however how it is taught is up to each individual school.
Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said the organisation welcomed the Ministry's decision to update its sexuality education guidelines said it would welcome the chance to bring its expertise to the Ministry review. The Sexual Abuse Prevention Network and Rape Prevention Education said programmes on consent are available but more funding was needed to deliver them. New Zealand Association of Counsellors President Robyn McGill backed calls for more consent education in schools.
Auckland Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation clinical manager Kathryn McPhillips called for the legal definition of consent to be changed to a positive definition. The Parenting Place Creative Producer John Cowan talked about ways for parents to have conversations with their teenagers. Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams called for tougher restrictions on the availability of alcohol.
Marsden research grants announced days after the Police announcement include funding for two studies on rape culture, totalling more than $1 million. Victoria University Associate Professor Jan Jordan (Criminology) will lead a study on "Rape, silencing and objectification: a socio‐cultural analysis of barriers to rape reform." Also at Victoria University, Associate Professors Elisabeth McDonald (Law) and Ann Weatherall (Psychology) will carry out a study, "Rape myths as barriers to fair trial practices."
On 6 November 2014, three women chained themselves to Auckland Central Police station in protest at the Police response to the 'Roast Busters.'
An Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) investigation into the adequacy of the initial Police investigation and the handling of any complaints or reports received by Police from members of the public between 2011 and October 2013 has been completed. Media said the report was to be released before Christmas.
Further updates will be added here and to the media list below.
The Ministry of Education will release its new guidelines for sex education in December 2014 however schools will not be required to teach more than basic biology, despite recommendations from the health select committee in 2013. Rape Prevention Education executive director Kim McGregor criticised the decision, saying sexual violence prevention education should be mandatory in schools and that in the absence of education young people use pornography, sexual music videos and social media for information. Green MP Kevin Hague, who sat on the health select committee, emphasised that programmes delivered in schools need to be effective.
Auckland HELP and Tu Wahine have carried out research on the needs of young people affected by sexual abuse and assault, Breaking the silence but keeping secrets: What young people want to address sexual violence (Point Research, 2013).
ACC has piloted a sexual and dating violence prevention programme, Mates & Dates.
The Sex'n'Respect website (by Auckland's Rape Prevention Education) provides information on respectful sex and relating for young people.
Rape Prevention Education has also created a video on bystander interventions aimed at 15-18 year olds, encouraging friends and bystanders to "safely step up and speak out" to prevent sexual violence.
Sex & Ethics is a sexual violence prevention programme delivered by Wellington's Sexual Abuse Prevention Network.
Who are you? is a New Zealand toolkit for sexual violence prevention work with young people, including a video clip on bystander interventions.
Contact details for specialist sexual violence agencies around the country are available on the TOAH-NNEST website.
Seven Sharp, TVNZ, 29.11.2014 (starts at 08:28)