Thursday, 19 March 2015

New Zealand's "Rape Culture" is alive and well

Today the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) released its report into the Roast Busters controversy.  I wrote about this and New Zealand's rape culture last year when the police announced no charges would be laid due to a lack of evidence in the post Musings on New Zealand's Rape Culture, Domestic Violence and Apologies.

It was quite handy when Stuff automatically told my phone about the release of this report by the IPCA with their breaking news feature on their app.  It meant I didn't have to wait until 6 o'clock to be fully enraged with the rest of the country.  It meant I could reflect on rape culture again; a culture which continues to be mocked as non-existent, when if you are female you know it is not.

And there is plenty in this report to be angry about.  While the report said that all the young women/girls making complaints were treated with compassion and courtesy, I was appalled to read through the article to find the following:
  • some of the young men/boys involved were never approached or spoken to by the police.
  • the parents of the young men/boys were not approached and informed of the allegations so they could have "that talk" with their sons.
  • the police failed to follow lines of inquiry in a timely fashion and sometimes not at all.
  • record keeping was poor.
  • each complaint was treated separately and not considered as a pattern of incidents.
Naturally the Police have been very apologetic with public "We are Sorries" from the Police Commissioner and the Waitemata Area Commander.  Anne Tolley, as the former Minister of Police responsible when the story broke and when the decision came through not to press charges, expressed concerns and as the current Minister of Social Development says that Child Youth and Family (CYF) would be next under the microscope.  The current Minister for Police, Michael Woodhouse, has said that it was failures by individual officers.

No police officer has lost their job, but they have been moved on to other roles and sectors in the police.  Greg O'Connor, of the Police Association, would have liked the report to look into what else was happening in the Waitemata area at the time, claiming that there had been a large number of cases that had priority at the time and not enough manpower to do it all justice.  Jacinda Ardern said that a lack of resourcing had affected the case.

You can read these documents from the IPCA: the media statement, the IPCA Public Report, and the speech notes by Judge Sir David Carruthers.  You can read more on Stuff (Roast Busters case subject of another review) and at the New Zealand Herald (Roast Busters case: Apology 'just the beginning').

This stood out from the speech made by Judge Sir David Carruthers at the release of the report today:
The first aspect, which the Authority publicly reported on in May 2014, considered the information provided by Police to the media about the Police investigations.

The second, which is outlined in today’s report, considered the adequacy of the initial Police criminal investigations and the handling of any complaints or reports received by Police from members of the public between 2011 and October 2013. The findings in the report are the result of a very thorough and detailed investigation.

The report is confined to those Police investigations up until these matters came to media attention in October 2013. It does not cover the subsequent Police reinvestigation, dubbed ‘Operation Clover’. The Police have publicly reported on the results of that reinvestigation, which did not result in the prosecution of any of the young men concerned.

So does that mean we now need another report into the subsequent police reinvestigation called Operation Clover?

Ellis is able to capture the essence of an issue with brilliance.

An urgent debate was called in Parliament this afternoon.  A number of Members of Parliament from both sides of the house rose to speak about this report today. 

Jacinda Ardern, Labour's spokesperson for Justice, listed a number of actions that demonstrated poor policing practice.  Jacinda then went on to outline the history of the case prior to today.  Jacinda Ardern specifically highlighted the lack of co-ordination in dealing with this case.  This was highlighted from the first paragraph in the report.  At the start of the IPCA the police told them about four separate incidents and then found out about three further separate incidents with the same group of young men.  But no one would join the dots between each of the seven cases to see there was a systemic problem with the same group of young men over and over again.

 And Jacinda also questioned, as did the IPCA, the practice of the police in investigating this case, and that the IPCA believes that investigation should have continued as per the policies of the police because the victims involved were children.  Jacinda Ardern questioned that while the police did not have the evidence to lay charges, some old fashioned policing should have happened; the police should have knocked on the doors of the families of these young men and had conversations with their parents.  And Jacinda knows this is an appropriate course of action as her father is a policeman.

Then Jacinda Ardern brought up this piece of legislation:

Section 134 of the Act outlines the penalties for those who have sexual conduct with a young person under 16 years as:
"(1) Every one who has sexual connection with a young person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

(2) Every one who attempts to have sexual connection with a young person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

(3) Every one who does an indecent act on a young person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years.

(4) No person can be convicted of a charge under this section if he or she was married to the young person concerned at the time of the sexual connection or indecent act concerned.

(5) The young person in respect of whom an offence against this section was committed cannot be charged as a party to the offence if the person who committed the offence was of or over the age of 16 years when the offence was committed.

(6) In this section,—
(a) young person means a person under the age of 16 years; and

(b) doing an indecent act on a young person includes indecently assaulting the young person.

Why is this piece of legislation so important?  The victims who made complaints to the police were all aged under 16 in six of the seven cases and each young man involved in the assaults that took place knew that they were aged under 16.  The fact that these children were under the age of consent consequently means that the evidence for a violation of the law was there because there is no consent when a person is younger than 16 because sexual connection is unlawful below that age.  Therefore the investigation should still be actively open and work should be continuing to secure the necessary evidence.  See more in this video of Jacinda Ardern during the debate.

Michael Woodhouse, the current Minister of Police spoke next.  He began while saying he agreed with almost everything Jacinda Ardern had said, and also said that there was nothing to candy coat the finding of the IPCA.  He then went on to defend Anne Tolley's role in the controversy, saying that she did not have the information available to her because the police had not collected that information, and that this was clear from the IPCA report.  Mr Woodhouse then went on to glorify what had happened to crime statistics under Mrs Tolley's reign as Minister of Police. 

But he kept referring to statistics on adult sexual assault - which I found concerning as you can not call a girl under 16 an adult when she can not consent to sex legally, and particularly as this issue is all about sexual assault.  Michael Woodhouse also spanked Jacinda Ardern and Greg O'Connor on the hand for their criticism about a lack of resources hampering the investigation.  Quite frankly, a lack of resources for the police stands out like dog balls when you look at this case.  Yes, a lot of money was spent on investigating this case, but I believe that the case was dropped because it would continue to cost more money and was not going to be resolved quickly.  You can hear more from Michael Woodhouse below.

I was appalled to hear Catherine Delahunty of the Greens point out yet another failing in the case, that the officers who took the complaints did not even get the name of the boys involved correct when they took down their initial details.  Catherine called for an independent taskforce into how sexual assault is dealt with.  You can hear more of what Catherine Delahunty has to say in this video below, but she is correct when she states that girls and women of today's modern society will continue to fail to have any faith in the police believing them if the police do not investigate their complaints properly.  And this is after Louise Nicholas has been working with the police to change their culture and response to sexual assault complaints!

Tracey Martin, deputy leader of New Zealand First, acknowledged that while many police officers are fathers and mothers, we have major failings in the New Zealand Police and spoke of another case with a young girl facing a similar situation.  It resulted in a "he said/she said" impasse.  She claimed this was not a one party problem and needed cross party support in parliament to make changes to ensure that women (or men) can go to the police and make a complaint with the confidence that they will be believed and the complaint investigated.  Tracey called for the conversation to happen in parliament, for this report not to be forgotten and gather dust.  You can hear what Tracey Martin has to say in this video below.

Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, talked about making changes, even when it is difficult, and called for the support of the House to make changes.  Amy Adams is in the process of establishing the role of a Chief Victims Advisor to all ministers across portfolios so that there would be independent advice available.  Admirable, but this government has a poor record on utilising true, independent advice.  Amy always criticised the perpetrators for their victimising the girls with social media and promoted the bill that she thinks will prevent this or take action against them for using social media.  We have a domestic violence notification every six minutes and half of homicides are related to domestic abuse, and while the Roast Busters case is not domestic abuse related, it is indicative of some of society's attitudes that must change.

Anne Tolley, who was the Minister of Police at the time of the Roast Busters case becoming known and when the police decided not to lay charges, also spoke.  She trumpeted that she was the first Minister of Police to make a complaint to the IPCA and that this report was a result of her complaint - but I'm pretty sure there were complaints made by opposition parties to the IPCA as well.  She was pleased that the girls (aka victims) now know what actually happened.  She emphasised that it was not a systemic breakdown, but failures by individuals. 

Anne Tolley also said that CYF had to take some responsibility too.  And the report makes mention of the knowledge CYF had and how co-operation and information sharing between CYF and the police needs improvement.  The police clearly did not give the right information to CYF, but neither did CYF clarify with the police it seems.  Hear more from Anne Tolley below.

Sue Moroney from Labour also stood to speak and to point out that the Speaker had allowed this debate because of Ministerial responsibility over the Roast Busters issue, and Sue pointed out that no Ministers were taking responsibility for this issue and the culture that exists to allow this issue to continue.  Sue Moroney stood up and spoke for New Zealand women to say we have had enough.  Sue pointed out that the police do not need a complaint to be laid to investigate an incident of sexual assault.  This is written into New Zealand law and is part of the policy of the police.  Sue pointed out that Michael Woodhouse and Anne Tolley were wrong on this point when they said the police couldn't prosecute because there had been no formal complaint.  See more about what Sue Moroney said below.

Louise Upston, Minister for Women, reiterated that the Roast Busters boys need to take responsibility for their actions and have to shoulder the blame.  Louise also echoed Anne Tolley in saying that it was her who referred the complaint against the police to the IPCA, and Michael Woodhouse in regards to the good statistics from the police over recent years.  She also listed a number of programmes and funding under this government.  (I think that Louise Upston may have neglected to mention the fact that her government denied the Christchurch centre that assisted rape victims funding before the 2014 election and they had to shut up shop as a result).  See more of Louise Upston's speech below.

Poto Williams also stood to speak on this matter, asking what victims of sexual abuse need.  They need timeliness, compassion, to feel they have been heard, not to be re-victimised, and that once they have told their stories to the police that the police will take action on their behalf.  Poto Williams believes that these needs have not been fully fulfilled.  85% of victims of family violence are also sexual violence victims.  Poto Williams stood to defend Jacinda Ardern's assertion that a lack of resources for the police hampered the investigation.  She said "Jacinda was being generous, because if not for a lack of resource, then it is about attitude and culture.  An attitude that sexual predation is ok and an attitude that the police do not care.  And a culture of indifference.  And I for one will not stand for that."  That is a fantastic statement, and you can view more of what Poto Williams has to say below.

I note that only one man stood to speak on this issue, the Minister of Police, Michael Woodhouse.  Are all the other men in parliament too scared that they may be tarred with the "apology" brush like when David Cunliffe stood up and apologised for the fact that men are the assailants in the majority of domestic abuse cases at the Women's Refuge conference last year?

A lot of what has been said on the Roast Busters case boils down to consent.  Sex without consent is rape, no two ways about it.  Sex with a person under 16 does not boil down to whether or not all parties are consenting to it because under our law in New Zealand it is classed as Unlawful Sexual Connection and can therefore be prosecuted against.

So the parents of the Roast Busters boys, in fact the parents of any teenager or young adult, should read this blog Consent: Not actually  that complicated by Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess and share it with their kids and use it as a base for discussion about sex and consent.  This blog uses a cup of tea as an analogy for sex.  I shared this blog on Facebook and one of my friends commented that along with getting consent for a cup of tea/sex, you should also check how the recipient likes their cup of tea/sex.

Sharon Murdoch is also an amazing cartoonist who hits the nail on the head.
The whole process of this Roast Busters case has brought up the issue of teenage sex and alcohol consumption, consent and the rape culture that permeates our society.

It also brings up the concept of  "old fashioned" community policing.  My great uncle was a policeman.  At his funeral, his son, my mum's cousin, told how parents would knock on Uncle Bill's door and asked him to "give their boy a kid up the bum" or "scare some sense into the little bugger".  This little community service stopped a lot of idiocy by the neighbourhood boys getting out of control and ruining their future prospects. 

Where has this gone from policing today?  How many girls would not have fallen victim to these Roast Buster boys if the police officers involved had have visited their family homes and informed the parents of these boys as to what they were doing at these parties so the parents of these boys could knock some sense into them?

Again, as a society, we fail these girls if this report is allowed to languish on a dusty shelf in parliament's library.  As a society we have to demand action from our law makers and law enforcement to ensure that victims are supported and protected and further harm is not inflicted.

To not do so would be to fail the standard, and we can't have the police fail their own standards again and let them get away with it.

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