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An Independent Police Conduct report has finally admitted that the numerous victims of the “Roast Busters” group were let down by the police and that the investigation was not “thorough”. Most people reading this will be uttering a collective “No shit”. The handling of the three-year “Roast Busters” case was fundamentally flawed from the very beginning when a 13-year-old girl came forward to press charges—two years before it hit the news. This girl was the first of seven victims to come forward with formal complaints and begin the traumatising and frankly terrifying process of our court system. Each of these complainants was worn down by the sceptical, drawn-out process and eventually decided they didn’t want to continue into court. The police then decided there was not enough evidence to prosecute any of the five suspected offenders, and closed the case in November last year.
In the IPCA report, however, a judge found that the police did not do a thorough investigation, did not follow up enquiries and pursue positive lines of investigation, failed to keep records of evidence, and in a number of cases “failed to adhere to the basic tenets of any form of criminal investigation”. The police didn’t even check whether the suspects had been involved in any prior related incidents. They also decided they didn’t want to work with Child, Youth and Family on the case—a strange and flawed decision, especially considering that many of the girls involved were underage children. It has also been highlighted that there were options to prosecute the young men involved that were not explored or discussed with the victims—after the police explicitly said there was not enough evidence to prosecute.
NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush has accepted the report and agreed with the statement that the investigation was not “robust or thorough”. When asked whether the officers involved will face any discipline, he responded that they will remain in the NZ police force but will no longer be a part of any child protection or sexual assault investigation teams.
There has been word that the findings of the report will go a long way to ensure this doesn’t happen again. I can’t imagine that these hollow apologies or promises of change will bring any peace to the young girls who were sexually assaulted. The police investigator’s failure to deliver justice to these girls is tragic and a sign of a deeply lacking system. The consequences of the unjust outcome of this investigation go beyond just the “Roast Busters” case—as someone challenged Police Minister Michael Woodhouse earlier this week: how can someone making a complaint of sexual assault expect to be taken seriously, given the report’s findings? If we cannot put our faith in the police, what else do we have?
“Roast Busters” case essential timeline
2011—Three different girls, two 13-year-olds and one 14-year-old, came forward with complaints regarding three members of the “Roast Busters” group. Each case involved a preliminary statement being made.
2012—Child, Youth and Family notified police of a possible Mass Allegation Investigation regarding the “Roast Busters” group and named four suspects and six new victims involved, all attending the same secondary school. The officers previously involved in the investigation decided no new evidence had come up and did not make an effort to work further with CYF in their investigation at that stage.
2013—More young women came forward and made statements regarding members of the “Roast Busters” group. At least three of these girls were between the ages of 13 and 14.
November 2013—Video of the “Roast Busters” group emerged showing them laughing and bragging about having sex with intoxicated, underage girls. This was the first public emergence of the group.
October 2014—Victims and their families were told by the police that no charges will be laid due to insufficient evidence.
March 2015—ICPA report shows the investigation was flawed, highlights numerous police discrepancies, and clarifies that they have not done a “thorough and robust” investigation.