Thursday, February 05, 2004

More rape claims against police officers emerge

February 5, 2004
More rape claims against police officers emerge

Further claims of rape by police officers were surfacing today following the Government's decision to order a commission of inquiry into the handling of pack-rape allegations. National Radio reported that an Auckland Sexual Abuse Help Foundation counsellor knew of four cases in the past 18 months of rape complaints against police that did not make it to court. Counsellor Caroline Day said at least one woman was persuaded by police that her claim would not stand up in court. "It's a harrowing court system to put anyone through," she said. "My understanding is that, on at least one occasion, there has been a bit of dissuasion about taking this case forward, as in police advising, 'Look, this isn't going to stand up'."

Former Police Association secretary Bob Moodie said he knew of another case involving a female police officer who did not pursue her claim of rape by a male colleague. The reason was that she had no confidence in any subsequent investigation. "I know of a case where a woman police officer was raped by a CIB officer," Dr Moodie told National Radio. "She never complained. She couldn't complain. She wouldn't complain and the reason she wouldn't is because she had no confidence her complaint would ever be investigated and she knew that she would be a greater casualty and a bigger victim of the situation than she actually was."

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced the commission of inquiry on Tuesday after claims that Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas was pack-raped by three police officers in 1986 when she was 18. All three have strenuously denied the allegations. One of the three, Auckland City district head Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards, was stood down on full pay as a criminal investigation was reopened. The commission will also consider wider issues within the police force. Miss Clark said yesterday that another case of alleged rape, in Northland 16 years ago, was the "final straw" when she considered the Government's response to Mrs Nicholas' claims. Details of Judith Garrett's case were sent to Miss Clark after Mrs Nicholas' allegations were made public at the weekend. "Believe me, what was sent to me... my hair stood on end," she said. Miss Clark said the two cases raised questions about the culture within the police and the conduct of individual officers and whether the course of justice had been perverted. "The question which is on everyone's mind is what were the prevailing standards of police behaviour where group sex with relatively young women was not considered a matter of concern to the employer?"

Mrs Garrett, 60, is also calling for police to re-open a criminal investigation into her complaint that a Kaitaia constable handcuffed and raped her in the town's police station in March 1988. The officer admitted having sex with her, but said it was consensual. In 1994, Mrs Garrett took a private prosecution against the Attorney-General, alleging a police cover-up. Despite finding that the initial investigation had not been carried out properly, a High Court jury at Whangarei ruled against her on the basis that the investigating officer had not been motivated by malice. Mrs Garrett said she was shocked by the similarities between her experience and that of Mrs Nicholas. "I feel that the public have absolutely no idea of what happens within the police force and they should be informed." Police national headquarters spokesman Jon Neilson said historical cases relevant to that of Mrs Nicholas, including Ms Garrett's, would be reviewed as part of a reopened criminal investigation into Mrs Nicholas' allegations. Deputy Commissioner Steve Long would make decisions about any matters that appeared to warrant future action, Mr Neilson said.


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