'Communication breakdown' over Roastbusters

Alleged Roastbuster Beriah Hales.
Alleged Roastbuster Beriah Hales.
A systemic breakdown in communication by police led to inaccurate information being provided to the public amid the Roastbusters scandal, a report into the incident says.

However, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) said "no individual could be criticised" for that breakdown in communication.

The IPCA was called in to investigate police handling of the Roastbusters scandal after it emerged that initial information given to media was incorrect.

It looked into the adequacy of the police investigation and the handling of any complaints or reports to police from the public between 2011 and October 2013. It also looked at the information police gave to media.

It today released its findings in relation to the media, saying it could not report publicly on the police investigation as it was still ongoing.

The public's trust and confidence in police was "undermined" by the release of inaccurate information, IPCA chairman Judge Sir David Carruthers said today.

"In this instance the Minister of Police, the Commissioner and the public were advised that no complaints or formal statements had been received from any of the alleged victims of the Roastbusters and that was the reason why police had not been able to undertake further investigations or lay any charges.

"This was incorrect," Sir David said.

"Although the authority accepts that there was no deliberate decision to mislead by any police employee in this case, time should have been taken to obtain the correct details from the police files in response to questions from the media."

However, he blamed the problem on a "collective breakdown in communication as a result of other commitments and time pressures", and said no individual police officer could be criticised for the mistake.

"The provision of inaccurate information was compounded by the fact that the police did not identify or rectify the mistake themselves, despite the opportunity to do so, and instead had to admit mistakes publicly only when contradictory information was ascertained and published by the media. This resulted in a consequent negative effect on the credibility of police."

Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said police were on record as saying its communications could have been better and the IPCA had confirmed that.

"The IPCA points to a collective breakdown in communication due to other commitments and the pressures of time. We agree with that view," he said.

"Police is very aware of its obligation to communicate accurately to the public at all times.
Unfortunately we did not get it right on this occasion and we regret that.

Mr Burgess noted that the IPCA made no recommendations in its report.

"I can, however, say that this has been a learning situation for all staff involved and the issues highlighted in the report will be raised directly with these staff."

Tolley welcomes report

Police Minister Anne Tolley said that although the breakdown in communication was not deliberate, it was disappointing, and she acknowledged the apology at the time from the Police Commissioner.

"It is vital that the public, and victims, have trust and confidence in the actions of the police, which is why they must do everything they can to provide accurate information.

"I await the outcome of the IPCA's review of the criminal investigation, and acknowledge that it can't be released until Operation Clover has been concluded," she said.


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