'Roast Busters': IPCA report criticises Police, responses to the report

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The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has released its report on Police investigations into the group of young men accused of sexually assaulting more than 30 young women in Auckland.

Below is a summary of the key findings and recommendations. This is followed by responses to the report from Police, government, political parties, parents and community advocates. Media coverage is listed at the end. Updates are being added as they are available.

Key findings and recommendations

IPCA's Report on Police’s handling of the alleged offending by 'Roastbusters' details a series of failings and deficiencies by a number of officers and supervisors involved in the Police investigation. These included failures to:

  • Undertake "basic investigative tasks [which] resulted in a lack of sound and evidence-based decision-making in each case" (paragraph 48)
  • Accurately record information such as the names, birth dates and ages of the young people, and the identity or role of the young people in CYF referrals and in the Police database, the National Intelligence Application (NIA)
  • Recognise, or consider the significance of, the involvement of the young men in the earlier cases when later cases were notified to Police. This was a "common theme" and "the most significant failing identified in the Authority’s investigation" (paragraph 50)
  • Attempt to speak to or take statements from all of the young men involved in the incident. This was despite having been requested to or given an undertaken to do so, by parents of some of the young women and one of the schools involved
  • Make any enquiries that might have corroborated or refuted any inconsistencies between accounts
  • Obtain statements from witnesses
  • Adequately consider the evidence in relation to consent issues
  • Secure all available evidence, such as CCTV footage, cellular telephone data, and photographic and video images
  • Properly evaluate all available offences when determining the outcome of their respective investigations
  • Ensure that all alleged offences were considered against relevant legislation
  • Consider all opportunities or interventions to prevent re-victimisation were considered.

Unwillingness of young women to pursue prosecution

The report notes the problematic understanding of an apparent motivation to act in accordance with the victims' wishes. IPCA "is concerned that in several of the cases, because officers concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed without the cooperation of the young women, they decided that no further action was required. They therefore overlooked the importance of holding the young men accountable for their behaviour and preventing its recurrence." (paragraph 45) This is in contrast to Police policy, which states that "'all reports of child abuse must be thoroughly investigated' even if the child or young person recants or parents/caregivers are reluctant to continue." (paragraph 47)

Alcohol and consent

IPCA found, "Material on these Police files reveals that the reported level of intoxication and the state of consciousness of the young women due to their alcohol consumption, and how this impacted on their capacity to consent, was an issue that was never adequately followed up by the officers. In some instances, it is apparent from the Authority’s interviews with the officers and from the files that it was not even considered." (paragraph 82)

Age of victims

Under the Crimes Act 1961 (section 134), a person who has a sexual connection with, or does an indecent act on, a young person under the age of 16 years has committed an offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment. The report states, "The Authority recognises that it is uncommon for Police to prosecute a young person under section 134 for sexual connection with a person of the same or a similar age. This is because often such cases involve two young people, close together in age, who are engaging in mutually consenting sexual activity, and it is determined by Police that the public interest is not served by prosecution. … It is clear that this general thinking underpinned the approach taken by the officers in these cases. … The Authority does not accept the validity of this reasoning, as there were a number of aggravating features in these cases that should have prompted consideration of such a prosecution. In four of these cases the young women were between two and three years younger than the young men involved. They were vulnerable (due to factors such as their level of intoxication); the extent to which they were willing parties was at best equivocal; and they were subject to sexual acts by more than one young man. The behaviour of the young men was demonstrably unacceptable and required a response." (paragraphs 84-88)

Failure to prevent further harm

IPCA found, "Despite the emergence of a pattern of incidents involving similar behaviours, no proactive response was ever undertaken by Police (with the exception of Officer D’s action with respect to the SAFE Programme [note: this referral to address harmful sexual behaviour did not take place when the young man did not turn up to sign paperwork]) and no warnings, formal or otherwise, were ever issued to the young men. None of the investigating officers consulted their Youth Aid colleagues, or attempted to develop a meaningful plan of action with CYF or the schools attended by the young people. … The failure of Police to make contact meant that the young men were never held accountable for their behaviour and, without any appreciation for the consequences or repercussions, there was no motivation for them to discontinue their behaviour. Furthermore, given that the parents of the young men were never made aware of several of the incidents and the details of their sons' involvement, they were unable to intervene or act to address the behaviour." (paragraphs 98, 105)

Recommendations

IPCA recommended that New Zealand Police:

i) initiate an audit by the National Manager, Adult Sexual Assault/Child Protection Team into current cases being investigated by Waitemata CPT to determine whether any individual shortcomings still exist;

ii) determine whether any other practice or policy issues need to be addressed, either nationally or in Waitemata, and in particular whether more emphasis is required on prevention;

iii) ensure that the core training modules for CPT investigators provide adequate instruction on, and guidance about, the application of sections 128 and 134 of the Crimes Act 1961; and

iv) advise the Authority of the outcome and any intended action by Police.

(paragraph 122)

Isolated or systematic issues?

IPCA concluded, "In the Authority’s view, most of the deficiencies identified in the Police investigations are a result of poor individual practices and cannot be said to be representative of Police child abuse investigations nationwide." (paragraph 118)

This was despite it noting, "It is disturbing that several themes identified as a result of the Authority’s [2010] child abuse inquiry (such as deficiencies in investigative practices, file recording, collaboration with CYF, and case supervision) have, again, been highlighted in the Authority’s current investigation. This is notwithstanding the fact that the related recommendations made in 2010 to address the deficiencies were accepted and embedded by the Police." (paragraph 120)

These 34 recommendations were made in IPCA's 2010 report (part I and part II) on its 'Inquiry into Police Conduct, Practices, Policies and Procedures Relating to the Investigation of Child Abuse'.

Previously, Dame Margaret Bazley completed the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct (2007), which made 60 recommendations, including on the ways Police respond to adult sexual assault. Subsequent Office of the Auditor General reports monitoring Police progress on implementing the recommendations detail mixed progress.

Responses to the report

New Zealand Police

Waitemata Police District Commander Superintendent Bill Searle "I'd like to publicly apologise to the young women and their families for the trauma that has been caused to them.  I will arrange to do this in person, depending on their wishes."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush also apologised but said "this has been clearly highlighted as a performance issue" and that it would be addressed within NZ Police. Three of the officers criticised in the report had been moved to other policing roles outside the child abuse and adult sexual assault teams, but would not be sacked.

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said the report was "grim reading", but "a case of individual failure, rather than systemic failure."

The Police Association was disappointed blame was laid with the investigating officers, with president Greg O'Connor saying the issue was workload and resources.

Communities, advocates and political parties

The mother of one of the young women said she was not informed of the IPCA report or the police apology before the release and was very angry, saying "What good is [an apology] now after four years?"

The National Council of Women (NCW) stated, "The Independent Police Conduct Authority’s report on police handling into the 'Roastbusters' highlights continued systemic and cultural failings within the New Zealand Police. The report details the numerous deficiencies in Police handling of the cases. It focuses on the individual officers involved stating that the problems were a result of poor individual practice and cannot be said to represent child abuse investigations nationwide." However "the council’s President Rae Duff believes that given the breadth, number and nature of the Police failings there are wider factors at play."

Similarly, Auckland lawyer and advocate Catriona MacLennan pointed out, "The ICPA did not actually investigate child abuse investigations nationwide. Its investigation was tightly focused on seven cases in Auckland. It is accordingly unclear on what evidence it bases the statement that there is no nationwide problem." She asks a series of outstanding questions of the Police, including whether any of the same failings were present in Operation Clover and the decision not to prosecute.

The Green Party called on the Minister of Police to "immediately establish an independent taskforce to implement and enforce changes in police culture." Co-leader Metiria Turei said "We have come to the unfortunate conclusion that the police are not capable of making the changes themselves, and they can't be trusted to take seriously the complaints of sexual violence victims in every case."

Rape Prevention Education director Dr Kim McGregor said she had spoken to Police about the issue and "They know that they have pockets in areas where maybe there's an old-school attitude ... Some of the heads within certain districts have misogynistic views towards women." National Survivor Advocate Louise Nicholas thought Police had learnt the lessons and it wouldn’t happen again. The NZ Herald reported that Dr McGregor and Louise Nicholas met Justice Minister Amy Adams to seek funding for advocates in specialist agencies to support sexual assault victims all the way from their initial complaint until after any subsequent court case, as recommended by the Law Commission.

Human Rights Commissioner Jackie Blue said the police apology over the case is "just the beginning" and more work needs to be done.

Social justice community ActionStation launched a petition calling for Police to re-open their investigation.

The Labour Party said Police must re-open the investigation. Women's Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney said, "Given the bungling identified by yesterday's Independent Police Complaints Authority report, Police should not require further complaints to be laid before they act."

An urgent debate was held in Parliament the afternoon the report was released.

A range of further responses were collated by Bryce Edwards in the New Zealand Herald.

Further review

Review of Child, Youth and Family

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said Child, Youth and Family (CYF) also should have done better. It would now be the subject of a review by the Office of the Chief Social Worker.

Updates

An unnamed Police officer saying they were one of those referred to in the IPCA report has vented their frustrations in the latest edition of Police News, the New Zealand Police Association Newsletter. The letter states, "I am one of the officers referred to in the IPCA Roast Busters report. I feel absolutely gutted with management’s response to the report. Since being in Police, I have always thought that if you did the best you could and didn’t act outside the law, then you would be supported. My main concern is that without senior management acknowledging the blatantly obvious issues, it is only a matter of time before this kind of situation will happen again and again."

In the same edition, Police Association President Greg O'Connor writes, "... contrary to what was being inferred, this was not a group of uncaring, slovenly detectives, but a team of dedicated, overworked and under-resourced (they were two detectives down for most of the period) investigators having to constantly prioritise cases. ... So, the Association has no hesitation in supporting our unfairly maligned colleagues, and attempting to bring some reason and balance to the commentary."

Police have introduced a new Code of Conduct (April 2015). It replaces the Code of Conduct introduced in 2008 in response to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct.

Further updates will be added to this page as they become available.

Background information

Previous NZFVC news stories

No charges laid: Responses to the 'Roast Busters' decision (November 2014)

Updates on the 'Roast Busters' (May 2014)

Responses to the 'Roast Busters' (November 2013)

Media

Roast Buster interview 're-traumatising victims', Radio NZ, 22.01.2019

Roast Buster ringleader ‘trying to make amends’ just started crowdfunding a music career, The Spinoff, 21.01.2019

Roast Busters' victims face further trauma from TV interview, says Louise Nicholas, Stuff, 21.01.2019

Five teens remanded on bail over sex charges, Radio NZ, 03.12.2015

Police have learned since Roastbusters case: Nicholas, NewsTalk ZB, 02.12.2015

Five teenagers charged with sex offences, Radio NZ, 01.12.2015

Five teens accused of sexual assault, SunLive, 01.12.2015

Police and schools join to fight shocking posts, NZ Herald, 22.11.2015

Police need to explain lack of further action on school boys, Catriona MacLennan, 15.11.2015

Unhealthy sexual culture embedded, Otago Daily Times, 14.11.2015

Teenagers need honest discussion, Wairarapa Times-Age, 13.11.2015

Police response to Roastbusters-type case 'appropriate': Minister, NewsTalk ZB, 13.11.2015

"Breathless" reporting of school boy sexual assault allegations, NewsTalk ZB, 13.11.2015

A Disgraceful Day in Parliament, NewsWorthy, 11.11.2015

Lewd photos case 'thoroughly' investigate, 3 News, 13.11.2015

Schools need to step up to deal with sexual assault - Louise Nicholas, Paul Henry, 09.11.2015

Roast Busters Debate Refused, Press Release: NZ First, Scoop, 10.11.2015

Support workers disappointed by police reaction to Roast Busters look-a-like case, Stuff, 09.11.2015

Culture change needed to stop sexual abuse, Press Release: Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, Scoop, 09.11.2015

Police warning not enough - expert, Radio NZ, 09.11.2015

Herald on Sunday editorial: Young sex offenders need dose of reality, NZ Herald, 08.11.2015

Warnings for Roast Busters II, NZ Herald, 08.11.2015

Echoes of Roast Busters case as boys caught sharing pics of lewd acts online, Stuff, 08.11.2015

Calls for tougher action on Roastbuster-like case, NewsTalk ZB, 08.11.2015

Kapiti women see red over rape culture, Kapiti News, 08.04.2015

Roast Busters officer vents frustration anonymously, Stuff, 08.04.2015

Police code of conduct updated after Roast Busters saga, Stuff, 08.04.2015

Herald on Sunday editorial: Police must earn public's trust, Editorial: Herald on Sunday, 05.04.2015

Police culture 'improvement' too sympathetic following Roast Busters, NZ Herald, 01.04.2015

Police need to improve how they deal with sex assault cases, MPs told, Stuff, 31.03.2015‎

Editorial: Police let down Roast Busters' alleged victims, Manawatu Standard, 22.03.2015

Editorial: Put women in charge of sex inquiries, New Zealand Herald, 22.03.2015

Opinion: 'Roast busters' cops still unaccountable, Waikato Times, 21.03.2015‎

Editorial: A damning indictment, Otago Daily Times, 20.03.2015

Girl's mother in Roast Busters case slams lateness of apology, New Zealand Herald, 20.03.2015‎

Greens want police culture 'rebuild', Radio NZ, 20.03.2015

Law Commission to use 'Roastbusters' report, Radio NZ, 20.03.2015

Roast Busters failings intolerable, Taranaki Daily News, 20.03.2015‎

MP recounts 'date-rape and assault' as young woman, The Dominion Post, 20.03.2015

Police failed vulnerable young women, The Dominion Post, 20.03.2015

Toby Manhire: Police reform pledges exposed in report, New Zealand Herald, 20.03.2015

Greens: Roast Busters taskforce needed, 3News NZ, 20.03.2015

Roast Busters report reveals errors, New Zealand Herald, 20.03.2015

Petition launched calling on Police to re-open 'Roast Busters' investigation, Māori Television, 20.03.2015

National Council of Women concerned after police failings highlighted in IPCA ..., Māori Television, 20.03.2015 ‎

Roast Busters case: 'These are not slovenly officers who didn't care', TVNZ, 20.03.2015‎

Bryce Edwards: Can we trust the police?, New Zealand Herald, 19.03.2015

Young women to receive apology for shortcomings in Roastbusters investigation, NZ Police, 19.03.2015

Who is to blame for the Roast Busters sex scandal?, TVNZ, 19.03.2015‎

Roast Busters case subject of another review, Stuff, 19.03.2015‎

Roast Busters case: Apology 'just the beginning', New Zealand Herald, 19.03.2015‎

IPCA: Police 'let down' Roast Busters' alleged victims, New Zealand Herald,  19.03.2015‎

Roast Busters: Part 2 of IPCA report released, 3News NZ, 19.03.2015‎

Roast Busters: Police promise personal apologies, 3News NZ, 19.03.2015‎

At a Glance: IPCA's findings into the Roast Busters case, 3News NZ, 19.03.2015‎

'These girls deserved better': Politicians blast police over Roast Busters case, TVNZ, 19.03. 2015‎

Roast Busters case: Police 'never put all the dots together', 3News NZ, 19.03.2015

Report slams police over 'deficiencies' in Roast Busters investigation, TVNZ, 19.03.2015

Police watchdog: How cops failed in Roast Busters probe, TVNZ, 19.03.2015‎

Calls for Police to reconsider charges in Roast Busters case, Press release: ActionStation, Scoop, 19.03.2015

IPCA report slams police mishandling of 'Roast Busters' case, The National Business Review, 19.03.2015‎

Roast Busters: "We clearly let the victims down" - police, The Aucklander, 19.03.2015‎

At a Glance: Roast Busters investigation timeline, 3News NZ, 19.03.2015‎

Apology after police 'fail' victims, Otago Daily Times, 19.03.2015‎

Police slammed over significant deficiencies in Roastbusters case, Newstalk ZB, 19.03.2015‎

Urgent Debate On Police Conduct, Scoop.co.nz, 19.03.2015‎