Today the New Zealand Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found what the New Zealand public already knew – that Police failed the survivors of the Roast Busters. They failed by not linking the seven complaints allegedly involving the same group of young men sexually offending against young women and girls. They failed by not proactively pursing community responses that didn’t hinge on charges being laid, and most importantly they failed “to properly consider all available offences in determining whether to prosecute the men”.
And what comes of this? An apology. The Waitemata police district commander Superintendent Bill Searle has offered to arrange personal meetings with the survivors who came forward.
Excuse me while I don’t commend or accept this apology.
Police were aware of the Roast Busters in 2011 – when a then 13 year old victim came forward – two years before it hit the news. At least thirty young women and children were identified as being potential victims of the self-named group of young men who allegedly operated online – finding victims, plying them with alcohol and then sexually assaulting them.
Of the seven formal complainants that came forward, none of the complainants (should I say it again? Children) were willing to go through our adversarial, drawn-out and often re-traumatising court process. So Police declined to pursue the charges, saying that the case would be left open in case anyone was “brave enough” to change their mind.
This is despite the fact it’s not a requirement for complainants to want to go to court in order for Police to press charges, especially in cases where it’s in the public interest.
And now today we know for sure that Police didn’t consider all the available offenses they could have charged these young men with. But an apology doesn’t help the seven young women who came forward and it doesn’t help other survivors of sexual violence feel confident in going to the Police. Instead, it tells the whole of New Zealand that five young men who allegedly boasted about their offending online in their Facebook page which Police were aware of for years, will not be held to account.
Today Parliament had an urgent debate about the IPCA report. Our politicians from all Parties mostly all agreed that the findings of this report were unacceptable, with opposition MP Jacinda Ardern summing it up nicely with her statement that “young women should not have to ‘be brave’ in order to get justice“.
So how can they get justice? We as people with voices within a democracy can try and force the Police to re-open the case through public pressure. Technically it’s never been closed, waiting for that “brave” young woman to agree to go to court. But now that we know that line is a farce, let’s take that burden from the people who have already been through so much.
Independent social justice community ActionStation (which, disclaimer, I used to work for) have started a petition calling for the police to continue with the case and explore the charges they missed in light of the IPCA report. Even if it amounts to nothing, at least the survivors know due process has been followed. Because an apology isn’t justice. It isn’t an attempt to right a wrong. And these girls have been wronged enough already.