A damning indictment

The second report by the Independent Police Conduct Inquiry into the police's handling of the alleged offending by the self-titled ''Roast Busters'' group is a damning indictment on individuals and processes.

The report, released yesterday, follows the authority's May 2014 account of the police's response to media inquiries about the Roast Busters.

The reports were the result of complaints made to the authority in the wake of media revelations in October 2013 about a group of young Auckland men who bragged online about having sex with drunk underage girls, some as young as 13 and 14.

(It must be noted this latest report was solely confined to police investigations until October 2013, not the subsequent investigation by police and Child, Youth and Family, named ''Operation Clover'', which found police did not have enough evidence to take a case to court.)

The authority's findings are damning and will inevitably open up questions of accountability once again, as well as the adequacy of police procedures and communication with agencies, notably Child, Youth and Family.

The events have highlighted the issues facing young people in today's society: sexual behaviour and consent, alcohol and drug consumption, peer and societal pressure, the pervasive influence of social media, and the monitoring of vulnerable teens by parents, schools and state agencies alike.

The authority noted these as a ''complex set of challenges'' and stated ''the issues were such that it is unlikely they could have ever been dealt with meaningfully and effectively solely by police''.

The authority found most of the police deficiencies were ''a result of poor individual practices'' not ''representative of police child abuse investigations nationwide''.

The fact the father of one of the young men was a police officer had ''no influence'' on the investigations and it found ''police investigators were motivated to act in accordance with the wishes of the young women, and in their best interests''.

However, the authority also found ''significant oversights'' by police, who it says ''had numerous opportunities to connect the dots earlier, to generate a more organised, expansive and cohesive response, and to work in collaboration with CYF, the schools, and the parents of these young men to prevent their behaviour from continuing''.

The authority found police ''failed to give adequate weight to the potential risk of harm to other young women'' and ''failed in several significant areas to meet the requirements of a good criminal investigation''.

It noted the complexities in that the young men involved were aged between 14 and 17 at the time of the incidents, but said their behaviour was ''demonstrably unacceptable and required a response'' and that ''clearly, the evidential threshold [sexual connection] for prosecution was met''.

Perhaps most chilling is the following: ''Contrary to their engagement with the young women and their families, the investigating officers' contact and interaction with the young men and their families was, in all six of the cases investigated by CPT [child protection team] staff, inadequate or non-existent ... the failure of police to make contact meant that the young men were never held accountable for their behaviour and, without any appreciation for the consequences or repercussions, there was no motivation for them to discontinue their behaviour. Furthermore, given that the parents of the young men were never made aware of several of the incidents and the details of their sons' involvement, they were unable to intervene or act to address the behaviour.''

The swift public apology from Waitemata district commander Superintendent Bill Searle yesterday to the young women and their families at the centre of events acknowledged the failings.

The matter risks overshadowing the good work the New Zealand Police, in general, do - and the progress which has been made in the area of sexual abuse. But there is much to be done to reassure the public and protect and support victims.

The police must adopt the authority's recommendations and focus on prevention.

And society must look at the messages we send concerning alcohol, sex, consent, rights and responsibilities if we are to have any chance of addressing the lethal cocktail we have created for our children.

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