Squad to clear sex assaults
A specialist team of police investigators has been brought to Northland to clear a backlog of adult sexual assault cases.
The temporary squad is made up of seven experienced detectives from across New Zealand who will focus on investigating unassigned sexual assault cases in Northland.
The squad, drawn from Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Southern policing districts, started work this week and will be in the region for a month.
Nationally, the monthly backlog of adult sexual assault files waiting to be assigned to a detective has risen 78 per cent in two years, to an average of 180 each month in the last three months.
The Northland region alone had 45 sexual assault cases unassigned in September, the highest of any police district, and twice that of the next highest area, Central.
Two more permanent staff will be appointed as adult sexual assault investigators.two further child protection positions would be established in the Mid and Far North.
Detective Inspector Dene Begbie said police continued to treat adult sexual assault cases as a priority.
“We have established case management practices which allow us to review the complaints that are made and prioritise each case.”
Trained supervisors across the district managed these cases.
How many files the temporary squad would work on was difficult to know, as some were complex and required more time than others.
“The number of files that are awaiting assignment are reviewed both within district and nationally to ensure we have a clear picture of which cases are still to be assigned for investigation to ensure the best possible outcome for victims,” he said.
The number of unassigned sexual abuse cases in Northland tops the country and could have a devastating impact on victims, a Whanga¯ rei Rape Crisis spokeswoman said.
“Women who have disclosed and reported to police, and then have a delay in the processes either at investigative stage or while awaiting court trials, are often emotionally affected and can have their healing disrupted,” she said.
“Having seven additional police staff working on unassigned cases is very welcome news.”
The numbers of unassigned cases prompted criticism police are under-resourcing investigations into sexual violence.
“It looks like there’s a significant resourcing issue — not enough detectives to cope with the workload,” Victoria University criminologist Jan Jordan, the head of a study into rape complaints, said.
During a recent file analysis, researchers noted situations where some alleged victims had waited more than six months for their file to be assigned, she said.
Jordan acknowledged some of the workload came from increased expectations.
Unassigned adult sexual abuse cases in Northland will be investigated by a team of experienced detectives.
DETECTIVE Inspector Dene Begbie.