The police have again let down the young women of New Zealand.
The Herald on Sunday last week revealed that senior school boys had plyed girls with alcohol, dangled their genitalia over the girls’ faces and posted the results on Facebook. Police who investigated the events decided to let the boys off with a warning.
Beyond a brief statement, the police are not commenting on what happened, leaving the public with many unanswered questions.
1 Did the police consider laying charges under the Harmful Digital Communications Act which took effect in July 2015 ? We don’t know the dates these events occurred, so we don’t know whether the act had taken effect and could have been used. Section 22 of the legislation provides that a person commits an offence if the person posts a digital communication with the intention that it cause harm to the victim and posting the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of the victim. Section 32, which is also in force now, states that a person harasses another person if he or she engages in a pattern of behaviour directed against another person and that pattern of behaviour includes doing any specified act to the other person that is one continuing act carried out over any period. The section goes on to explain that “continuing act” includes an act done on one occasion that continues to have effect over a protracted period. The example given is of offensive material about a person being placed in any electronic media and remaining there for a protracted period.
2 Did the police decide not to lay charges because of their policy of not prosecuting young people under section 134 of the Crimes Act when those involved are of similar ages ?
3 Was the investigation into the events thorough and careful or, if it was reviewed, would it be found to be deficient as with the original Roast Busters ?
4 Did the police take immediate action to stop the boys’ behaviour, or did they initially only monitor it, allowing additional girls to be victimised ?
5 In what exact circumstances would the police ever lay charges under section 134 when young people are of similar ages – or do they never apply this law ?
6 What actions did the police take beyond warning the boys – did they speak to the school, speak to the boys’ parents, offer support to the girls, refer the boys to Youth Aid, obtain search warrants, do forensic computer searches, or apply the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act ?
7 Do the police understand that a complaint from a victim is not needed to lay charges ?
8 Do the police understand that computer forensic evidence is good evidence in court ?
9 Do the police understand the law relating to consent and, in particular, the fact that consent is irrelevant to prosecutions under section 134, and that under section 128A people cannot consent if they are drunk ?
10 Do the police believe that juries will never accept evidence from women incapacitated by alcohol ?
We know the Roast Busters events were not isolated and this confirms that.
We need comprehensive education to teach boys respect for girls, and parents and schools need to do far more.
But we also need the police to enforce the law - and we all need to have confidence they will do so.