Saturday, March 10, 2007

200 complaints to police sex inquiry

Taken from the Herald website, written by L. Cleave.


The commission of inquiry into police conduct was flooded with up to 200 complaints of rape and sexual assaults by police that will never be publicly aired.

The commission is due to report its findings at the end of the month but one of the women who sparked the inquiry says it was shut down from the beginning.

The $3.6 million inquiry was set up in February 2004 to explore police handling of allegations of sex offending against their own and was supposed to take nine months.

It was prompted by allegations by Louise Nicholas and Judith Garrett of historical sex offending.

Announcing the inquiry, Prime Minister Helen Clark said several women had made similar complaints. "It is important that these ... are thoroughly investigated."

However, Mrs Nicholas and Mrs Garrett were excluded from taking part in the inquiry after the commission separated its work from police investigations.

The inquiry was put on hold for 10 months. When it resumed the Government directed the commission to carry out investigations in private and make its findings "of a more general nature".

The report is expected to focus on policy and procedure and will not include findings on individual complaints.

Mrs Garrett said the inquiry should have been "short and transparent" and had failed her.

"The commission of inquiry was prevented from doing its job by the police opening criminal investigations of such a historic nature that they must have known they were going to fail," she said.

"Whoever thought of it, it was a clever move. It appeared to be doing something for the raped women in setting up a commission of inquiry and then within a fortnight ... the most serious complaints were rendered impossible for the commission to look at."

The commission has refused to answer questions about the inquiry, but the Weekend Herald understands it was inundated with complaints, most from women.

It did not refer any of the 200 cases to police investigating historical allegations.

"That wasn't part of the terms of reference," a spokesman said.

Details of the inquiry are likely never to surface, with transcripts kept secret and all evidence presented covered by confidentiality orders that are not subject to the Official Information Act.

An Auckland psychotherapist who contacted the commission with her case has heard nothing from the inquiry since August 2004.

She did not know what to expect from the report.

"I hope the commission does highlight the violent culture that has been endemic in the police for many, many years," she said this week. "Women got raped and men got beaten up and sadly this is not uncommon.

"My hope is by bringing this to light that there can be a shift in police culture so it is healthier, it is less sexist, less racist, less violent."

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