Police 'can't prosecute' men having sex with underage girls
POLICE are defending their decision not to lay charges against a group of young men who boasted online about having sex with intoxicated underage girls.
The New Zealand group, who called themselves Roast Busters, would name their conquests on a Facebook page - an action they labelled Roasting.
Police have been monitoring the page for several months and have known about the groups existence for two years, but said they have been unable to lay any charges because of a lack of evidence.
Labour's women's affairs spokeswoman Carol Beaumont said the group's exploits amounted to gang rape and that no action has been taken by police was "astonishing".
"Our police pride themselves on being proactive. Surely that could have extended to tracking these youths down and clearly signalling that what they are doing is not okay."
But police said today a full and thorough investigation into the case had been conducted.
"But in the absence of significant evidence such as formal statements, there is not enough evidence to prosecute the alleged offenders at this time."
Detective Bruce Scott told APNZ aside from the Facebook page evidence, police had other information into the case, "but it doesn't make evidence''.
"We continue to inquire into what's happened and look for evidence which we can use for a possible prosecution.''
As well as the girls who were the alleged victims of the young men, police had also spoken with friends of the victims who had information about the group, Mr Scott said.
Some of the girls were under the legal age for consensual sex and some were over the legal age, he said.
"The whole situation concerns us, and if any girl or any woman is grossly intoxicated then she can't consent to having sexual intercourse, then that means she's been raped if somebody takes advantage of her.''
Just having people boast that that was exactly what they had been doing was not enough to bring a case to court, Mr Scott said.
"It comes down to evidence and at the moment we haven't got sufficient evidence - there are strict rules around what we can and can't do with complaints.''
Detectives from the Waitemata Child Protection Team had been working on the case since 2011, when a teenage girl came forward to police to informally report what had happened to her.
During the investigation, the offenders and circumstances were identified, police said.
"All identified and possible victims were contacted by police and encouraged to give formal statements which would assist the enquiry.
"Three teenage boys were formally interviewed by police as suspects, but unfortunately made no admissions. A fourth boy refused to co-operate."
The boys' high schools were also alerted to their behaviour, police said.
"We appreciate their difficult and traumatic situation. However, without further evidence such as formal statements police are unable to prosecute the offenders in this case.
"A Facebook site which was used by the suspects, although offensive and inappropriate, did not provide evidence which would allow the case to be put before a court."
The Law Society's criminal law convenor Jonathan Krebs said in this case, the police had their hands tied in not being able to lay charges against the group.
"They [Roast Busters] actually have to do something that's against the law and bragging about something on a website, at the moment that I can see, is not against the law.
"Just because someone boasted on a website doesn't mean it's true and we don't want to start convicting on bragging.''
The worst thing police could do at the moment was to bring a prosecution that was a "bit loose'', Mr Krebs said.
"If one of these young ladies were to make a complaint to police, then I would have thought police would take that up and run with it.''
Police said they understood how difficult it was for victims of sex crimes to take the step of making a formal complaint to police.
Anyone who had been in contact with the group identifying themselves as "Roast Busters" or anyone had witnessed their behaviour was asked to contact police.
Ms Beaumont said the case raised broader questions around the way rape victims were treated and questioned what was being done to change the culture that meant teenage boys thought such behaviour was acceptable.