22 May 2014 - An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today on the Police handling of information provided to the media in response to enquiries about the ‘Roastbusters’ found that a systemic breakdown in communication by Police led to inaccurate information being provided to the public although no individual could be criticised for that action.
At the beginning of November 2013 media reports about a group of young men in Auckland who called themselves ‘Roastbusters’ were published. When the story first broke, the media approached Police for comment about their knowledge of this group and details of the Police investigation. It became apparent over the following days that the information originally provided by Police to the media was incorrect.
The Authority was asked to examine the Police handling of the investigation by the Minister of Police, Anne Tolley, Labour Spokesperson for Police, Jacinda Ardern, and two other members of the public.
The Authority decided to independently investigate two aspects of Police actions. The first aspect considered the adequacy of the Police criminal investigation and the handling of any complaints or reports received by Police from members of the public between 2011 and October 2013. The second aspect considered the information provided by Police to media concerning Police involvement in these matters.
Although the Authority’s investigation into the first aspect has been concluded it cannot report publicly until the on-going Police criminal investigation (Operation Clover) is completed. This is so that the investigation into potential offending is not prejudiced in any way. However, to ensure the timely reporting of this case the Authority determined it would release its report on the second aspect of its investigation separately.
In releasing today’s report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said maintaining public trust and confidence in Police should be the top priority for Police. That trust and confidence is undermined when Police provide inaccurate information to the public.
“In this instance the Minister of Police, the Commissioner and the public were advised that no complaints or formal statements had been received from any of the alleged victims of the ‘Roastbusters’ and that was the reason why Police had not been able to undertake further investigations or lay any charges. This was incorrect,” Sir David said.
“Although the Authority accepts that there was no deliberate decision to mislead by any Police employee in this case, time should have been taken to obtain the correct details from the Police files in response to questions from the media.
“The Authority has found that due to a collective breakdown in communication as a result of other commitments and time pressures, no individual Police officer can be criticised for the fact that inaccurate information was initially provided to the public.
“The provision of inaccurate information was compounded by the fact that the Police did not identify or rectify the mistake themselves, despite the opportunity to do so, and instead had to admit mistakes publicly only when contradictory information was ascertained and published by the media. This resulted in a consequent negative effect on the credibility of Police,” Sir David said.