Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Second woman's anguish

The NZ Herald
February 4, 2004
Second woman's anguish
by Eleanor Black

A second woman whose rape complaint was bungled by police has spoken out about police treatment. The woman, whose 1982 rape complaint was handled in what a police investigator later agreed was a "woefully inadequate" manner, used to live close to Louise Nicholas, whose pack-rape complaint has sparked a commission of inquiry. The woman, whose name has been suppressed, was given a police apology for the way she was treated but she wants compensation.

The 38-year-old was twice raped by a shopkeeper in 1982 when she was 16. She reported the rapes to Murupara police - who were friendly with the rapist - but they did not follow up her complaint. Mrs Nicholas alleges three policemen pack-raped her in a Rotorua police house in 1986. The second woman remembers hearing about the incident. "She was a good girl," she said of Mrs Nicholas. "She had real strict parents." Police Commissioner Rob Robinson formally apologised to the unnamed woman in 2000 following a damning 1996 report by Rotorua Detective Inspector Graham Bell (now retired) into the police handling of her rape complaint. Mr Bell said in the report that a formal apology for the "woefully inadequate" police response was the "very least that should be done for the complainant".
His report found:

* The police service in Murupara in the early 1980s was "inadequate and superficial".
* The police were reluctant to accept that there had been any wrongdoing on the part of the rapist.
* The police officer to whom she complained, Constable Trevor Clayton, asked the rapist and his wife to come to the police station, in an attempt to deal with the matter quickly, which Mr Bell described as "inappropriate".
* The lack of police action at the time had "a compound effect" on the victim.

Mr Bell concluded: "It would appear she was treated as a second-class citizen and her rights were trampled by an uncaring, uncommitted and lackadaisical police officer with little interest in his job. "There is no question that the police response to her reporting the incident was woefully inadequate to the point of being a gross neglect of duty on the part of former Constable Trevor Clayton." Mr Clayton resigned in 1989 under the Police Employment Rehabilitation Fund scheme for officers with psychological or physical impairment. The woman wants to sue the police for exemplary damages and loss of earnings. Since the rapes, she has suffered health problems which prevent her from working. Her advocate, Phillipa Cunningham, says that a year ago she tried on behalf of the woman to get a $320,000 out-of-court settlement from the police. The police refused. The woman, who now lives in Auckland, told the Herald she is $120,000 in debt for personal loans, is depressed and stressed. "I have been breaking," she said, "but I've got to learn I've got to focus."

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