Bill Searle says police must meet the Solicitor-General's clear guidelines on when to prosecute.
Bill Searle says police must meet the Solicitor-General's clear guidelines on when to prosecute.

Police confirm 4 earlier complaints on underage sex group

NEW Zealand police have confirmed they received four complaints by alleged victims of the Roast Busters group of young men, between 2011 and last year.

And the Waitemata District Commander Bill Searle has apologised this morning to a 15-year-old who said she complained to police about the group two years ago.

He's revealed a total of three girls made complaints in 2011, and one last year.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall has been called to Police Minister Anne Tolley's office this morning for a 'please explain' meeting.

They will hold a joint press conference following the meeting.

Until last night, police had said they had been unable to bring prosecutions against the young men because they were yet to receive a formal complaint by any victims.

However a 15-year-old girl told 3News last night when she complained in 2011 about being sexually assaulted by two young men when she was 13, the line of questioning centred on the clothes she was wearing and why she had chosen to go out with the group.

"I can't believe nothing was done,'' she said.

Police had been monitoring the group for the last two years, who bragged online they would ply girls - some as young as 13 - with alcohol and have sex with them.

Their activities came to light this week with media reports, and the Facebook page they boasted on was shut down.

Police have now said four young women aged between 13 and 15 had come forward with complaints of a sexual nature.

Waitemata District Commander Superintendent Bill Searle tried to explain to Radio New Zealand why the girls' complaints were not taken further.

"These are very difficult cases and not only do we have to satisfy the law and to satisfy the law we have to have evidence, but we also have to apply the Solicitor-General's guidelines which give clear guidelines as to when we can prosecute matters.

After Superintendent Searle's media interviews this morning Police issued a statement 'clarifying' the number of complaints.

It said four girls had been identified as victims; and of those four, one had made a formal complaint.

"Of the total four girls, one has gone through the process of making her complaint formal, where an official statement was made by way of an evidential video interview.''

- Police handling of complaint to be investigated -

Mr Searle said he was distressed with the suggestion by one complainant that police questioning of her was inappropriate.

"I'm conducting a review of the case and we'll look very carefully about what was said and done by the police officers dealing with this girl.''

Police would supply different officers to the original investigating officers for future interviews, he said.

Even though the behaviour was "immoral and repugnant'', police had to deal with evidence, Mr Searle said.

"If there's not evidence to the standard required, we cannot progress that to court.''

Sometimes, even if there was a formal complaint, there might not be enough evidence to take the case to court, he said.

Earlier this week, police said their hands were tied without a formal complaint by a victim.

Mr Searle said police appreciated it was difficult for young girls to come forward in cases of a sexual nature.

"However, it is an important component of the overall evidence and does contribute to the overall evidence if these girls do come forward and provide statements.''

Mr Searle said he would cooperate with any inquiries that were launched into the police handling of the case, after revelations by Labour MP Jacinda Ardern that she will refer the case to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

"The revelations tonight by one of the victims that she made a complaint to the police at the age of 13 and the nature of the interview that she had has led us to believe that this absolutely needs to be reviewed independently to ensure that ... the police acted appropriately in the way they handled that 13-year-old child," Ms Adern said last night.

- Action being taken against group -

After the activities of the Roast Busters were revealed this week, two members presented themselves to police for interviews.

As a result of that, police had executed a search warrant, Mr Searle said.

"Some items have been seized, which we're currently analysing and we're hoping that will contribute to the inquiry.''

- 2011 complainant "angry" -

When asked if the complaint by the 13-year-old in 2011 was one of rape, Mr Searle told Newstalk ZB that it depended on lots of bits of legislation.

"It's about some sexual activity that the girls are not happy with, and based on the legislation we'll see which legislation is the most appropriate.''

One of the girls who complained in 2011 told 3News she was angry no charges were laid.

She was left traumatised, and after she plucked up the courage to tell her family two weeks later, her parents took her to police to lay a complaint.

"I had a video interview where I had to act out what had happened with dolls ... it was traumatising."

The girl felt it was her word against the Roast Busters. Her brother also gave police the names and addresses of the youths involved.

- Superintendent not aware of complaints, apologises -

Mr Searle told Radio Live that when he was originally briefed on the Roast Busters investigation he was told no original complaint had been laid.

"To be honest I now find that there was a formal complaint and there's no doubt that that was a formal complaint.

"All I can do is apologise to the victim in question because it would only possibly have caused her extra stress and I'm very sorry about that.''

Mr Searle said he was looking into why he wasn't told about the original complaint and why the complaint wasn't taken any further.

Mr Searle told TV3's Firstline that over the next few days he would find out why he was given the incorrect information.

He refuted a suggestion there was a "culture of disbelief'' of sex victims within the police.

"I think what's happened here is the police officers have done there very best and we'll need to see if their very best was good enough or we'll need to do better.''

Police had been in the process of recontacting the victims over the last couple of weeks, "to see if we could take it any further'', he said.


Evolving story

  • Sunday: Detective Inspector Bruce Scott said there was nothing police could do until a girl was "brave enough" to make a formal complaint.
  • Monday: Mr Scott said no girl had made a formal complaint.
  • Tuesday: Superintendent Bill Searle said none of the girls from the original inquiry wanted to make a formal complaint.
  • Yesterday: A teenage girl says she made a formal complaint to the police two years ago.
  • This morning: Police confirm four girls have now laid complaints with police about the Roast Busters.

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