12 August 2009 - The Independent Police Conduct Authority is investigating delays in the Police responses to a potentially significant number of child abuse cases in the Wairarapa.
Police were criticised by the Judge in the Masterton District Court last week over a two-year delay in prosecuting a 45-year-old man for assaults on his two daughters in 2006 and 2007.
Authority Chair Justice Lowell Goddard said today the case reflected wider issues with the Police response to allegations of child abuse in the Wairarapa, extending back at least to 2006.
The Police are now addressing these issues through an active investigation which is reviewing Wairarapa child abuse files, completing investigations and, where necessary, prosecuting. Last week’s case was one of that investigation’s early prosecutions.
The Police in 2008 also conducted a review which found widespread failings including poor case management and workload management, poor supervision, and a lack of accountability and responsibility.
The Authority was notified of the issues by Police in June this year and is now:
• conducting its own investigation into Police conduct in relation to management of child abuse cases in the Wairarapa;
• actively overseeing and directing a Police investigation into Police conduct in relation to child abuse cases in the area; and
• maintaining ongoing oversight of the Police criminal investigations into outstanding child abuse cases.
“The overriding priority is children’s safety, which requires the timely conclusion of any outstanding investigations and prosecutions,” said Justice Goddard. “The Authority is very concerned about the impact on children from past delays in completing investigations.”
The Authority’s investigation, and the Police inquiry under the Authority’s direction, will consider who was aware of issues with management of child abuse cases in the Wairarapa and what they did in response.
This would include questions of possible misconduct or neglect of duty, compliance with policies and general instructions, the adequacy of existing policies, and questions of supervision and oversight.
The Police inquiry also includes an audit of child abuse files in other regions to provide assurance that the delays are limited to the Wairarapa area.
The Authority will publicly report on its findings in due course.