Squad to clear sex as­saults

Whangarei Report - - NEWS - By Kristin Edge

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.

PHOTO / FILE

Unas­signed adult sex­ual abuse cases in North­land will be in­ves­ti­gated by a team of ex­pe­ri­enced de­tec­tives.

PHOTO / DANICA MACLEAN

DE­TEC­TIVE In­spec­tor Dene Beg­bie.

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