No charges laid: Responses to the 'Roast Busters' decision

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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.'

Marches have been planned in Auckland and Wellington on Saturday 22 November 2014.

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.

For background information, see the previous NZFVC news stories Responses to the 'Roast Busters' and Updates on the 'Roast Busters'.

Further updates will be added here and to the media list below.

Updates:

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.

Resources:

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).

Information about sexual violence, including primary prevention (preventing violence before it occurs), is available on the TOAH-NNEST website.

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.

Get support:

Contact details for specialist sexual violence agencies around the country are available on the TOAH-NNEST website.

Media:

Herald on Sunday editorial: Give teens stronger lessons on consent, New Zealand Herald, 15.11.2014

State rejects sex ed change, New Zealand Herald ,‎ 15.11.2014‎

Sex ed will remain up to schools to decide, Gay NZ, 15.11.2014

Roastbusters: 80 questions for Police, Catriona MacLennan, 11.11.2014

Schools have a role to play in sexual consent education, Press Release: New Zealand Association of Counsellors, 10.11.14

Roast Busters: Women chain themselves to police station in protest, NZ Herald, 06.11.2014 

Roast Busters protesters chained to police station, 3 News, 06.11.2014

'Disgusted' women in chained Auckland police station Roast Busters protest, TVNZ One News, 06.11.2014

Roast Busters protesters lock themselves to Police HQ, Press release, Scoop, 06.11.2014

Opinion: Sex education overhaul a grim necessity, Manawatu Standard, 06.11.2014

Teaching shouldn't stop at the physical - students, Stuff, 05.11.2014

Expanded sexual education welcomed, Manawatu Standard, 05.11.2014

Opinion: Listen to young people on sexual violence, Stuff, 05.11.2014

Researchers to tackle sex crime, NZ Herald. 05.11.2014

What can be done about the Roast Busters? Radio Live, 04.11.2014

Funding needed for consent education programmes, Press Release: Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, 04.11.2014

Over $1 million for rape law research, Stuff, 04.11.2014

Rape culture studies get $1m grant, Radio NZ, 04.11.2014

Opinion: Roastbusters story shows how society enables rape, Press release: Massey News (Dr Deborah Russell), 04.11.2014

Roast Busters decision puts focus on trial system, Nelson Mail, 04.11.2014

Calls for class on sexual consent, The Nelson Mail, 02.11.2014

Editorial: Roast Busters case shows legal failings, New Zealand Herald, 02.11.2014

Victims deserve better, Otago Daily Times, 02.11.2014

Passionate Few Create A Massive Voice To Speak Out Against #Roastbusters Rape Boasters, 01.11.201

Consent discussion needed – specialists, Radio NZ, 01.11.2014

Roastbusters: Where was the respect? – NZAC, Voxy, 01.11.2014

How well are we looking after our young women?, Press Release: Mental Health Foundation, Scoop, 31.10.2014

Video Statement: Catriona MacLennan #Roastbusters, 31.10.2014

Roast Busters the ugly face of sex, Stuff.co.nz, 31.10.2014

Consent to be part of sex education, Radio NZ, 31.10.2014

Consent and sexuality education - Family Planning, Press Release: Family Planning, Scoop, 31.10.14

Positive change from 'Roast Busters' sex scandal, NZ Herald, 31.10.14

Petition calls for sex ring case review, Radio NZ, 30.10.2014

Warning to sex ring perpetrators, Radio NZ, 30.10.2014

Roastbusters verdict could change court system – minister, TVNZ, 30.10.2014

World of social media has a lot to answer for, Manawatu Standard, 30.10.2014

How well are we looking after our young women? Voxy, 30.10.2014

Open letter on Roastbusters: All We Want Is The Law Upheld, Scoop.co.nz, 30.10.2014

Education won't stop teens abusing alcohol – expert, 3News, 30.10.2014‎

Adams to consider sex abuse court, Radio NZ, 30.10.2014

Support needed for sex assault cases, Stuff.co.nz, 30.10.2014

Roast Busters: Turn Indignation into Action, Press release: The Parenting Place, Scoop.co.nz, 30.10.2014

Toby Manhire: Some hope left in sex-case inquiry, New Zealand Herald, 30.10.2014

Decision predictable, suspicion lingers, Timaru Herald, 30.10.2014

Door not closed to Roast Busters action, Stuff, 30.10.2014

Questions and Answers - October 30, Press Release: Office of the Clerk, Scoop Parliament, 30.10.2014

Conduct questionable but not criminal - lawyer, Radio NZ, 29.10.2014

Calls for changes following 'Roastbusters' decision, Voxy, 29.10.2014

Rape Crisis calls for changes to criminal justice system, Press release: Wellington Rape Crisis, Scoop, 29.10.2014‎

Renewed calls for justice system overhaul, NZ City, 29.10.2014

Roast Busters: Alleged victim's mum fights on, NZ Herald, 29.10.2014

Roast Busters case highlights teen drinking issue, Stuff, 29.10.2014

Roast Busters: Police urge parents to keep tabs on teens, 3News, 29.10.2014

Seven Sharp, TVNZ, 29.11.2014 (starts at 08:28)

Parents, know what teens are up to: police, NZ City, 29.10.2014

Minister still not familiar with her job - NZ First, Voxy, 29.10.2014

Roast Busters case highlights systemic failure – Greens, Voxy, 28.10.2014

Roast busters report raises questions - NZ First, Voxy, 28.10.2014

At A Glance: Roast Busters – who was involved? 3News, 28.10.2014

Police front over Roast Busters investigation, 3News NZ, 28.10.2014

Roast Busters investigator wanted arrest, NZ City, 28.10.2014

Roast Busters case: No charges to be laid, Stuff.co.nz, 28.10.2014

No charges to be laid over 'Roast Busters' scandal, TVNZ, 28.10.2014

Police Commissioner issues statement on Roast Busters case, Voxy, 28.10.2014

Police complete Roast Busters investigation, Voxy, 28.10.2014

Police to reveal outcome of Roast Busters probe, TVNZ, 28.10.2014

Lessons to be learned from police investigation – King, Voxy, 28.10.2014

Roast Busters inquiry drags on, Stuff.co.nz, 18.10.2014