Police are having to shelve sexual assault complaints because
witnesses are too drunk to remember the details.
In Waikato alone, up to five complaints of sexual assaults
are recorded each week, usually from women aged between 16
and 30, but many can not be acted on because of the high
intoxication of people involved.
The problem also exists at another of the country's busiest
police stations, Auckland Central.
Police cannot take a case to court without clear evidence.
But some complainants were so drunk that officers'
investigations - costly in police time and resources - were
left in in limbo.
"Sometimes it is so bad that they can't remember anything,
nothing at all about the sexual assault," Detective Senior
Sergeant Mark Greene of Hamilton told the Weekend
"But they know they have been assaulted. It's also rare that
someone walks in here and it's not genuine."
Detective Inspector Scott Beard of Auckland City CIB said the
situation had long been an issue for police trying to
"It's unfortunate that, when people do overindulge, they can
become more vulnerable to predacious opportunists who may
have undesirable, misguided or criminal intent towards them.
"People who are highly intoxicated are also impaired when it
comes to recall of specific events and, often, their evidence
- if ever put before a court - can be deemed unreliable or
Of the 3448 sexual assault and related offences recorded by
police throughout New Zealand in the most recent year for
which statistic have been compiled, 42.5 per cent were not
Police in the Auckland central, east and west districts
resolved 160 of 257 offences recorded, and Waikato police
resolved 208 out of 362.
A Massey University survey released this week showed 28 per
cent of 16 and 17 year old girls were binge-drinking, downing
at least eight standard drinks in a typical drinking session.
The proportion of binge-drinking young women had doubled in
less than a decade.
And emergency departments throughout the country were
treating more women for intoxication than ever before.
Mr Greene said binge-drinking played a big part in the
problems police faced with sexual assault complaints.
"It's definitely part of the fabric of it."
In Auckland, Hamilton and other centres, police and other
agencies are out in the streets at night, pushing campaigns
designed to prevent sexual assault.
Hamilton police are giving the message, among others, that
intoxicated or inebriated people who are slurring their words
or stumbling around can't properly consent to having sex.
"You get a lot of young women who go to parties or whatever
beforehand and when they get to town they are absolutely
written-off - we are seeing a lot of it," said Detective
Nicola Cornes, one of the officers taking the campaign to
"I think a lot of them think they are prepared and
safety-conscious but they are probably not."
Police have also increased their training, with a focus on
adult sexual assault offending during CIB induction courses.
"We are trying to ensure our staff have a far more
comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of this type of
investigation than they had before," said Detective Inspector
Tusha Penny, manager of the national child protection and
sexual violence team.
While cases involving intoxication could make investigations
challenging, they were also an impetus for police to get out
and explore other avenues for evidence.
"We make sure we do a thorough investigation and at end of
the day we would hope we have established the truth of
exactly what happened," Ms Penny said.
There were large concerns that sexual assault remained
significantly under-reported and research was being done to
analyse why many victims did not make complaints.
"We want people to tell us about it, because people need
support ... and we need to make sure people doing that stuff
are being held to account."
Rape Prevention Education director Dr Kim McGregor believed
much of the solution lay in prevention.
She said victims were too often blamed because they had been
drinking or wearing revealing clothing.
"Nobody goes out thinking they better not wear a short skirt
because they might be raped - so let's start focussing on the
offender and how we can intervene in their behaviour, rather
than blaming victims."
- Jamie Morton, NZ Herald