Allegations of Sexual Abuse in NZ
Hamilton police are becoming increasingly frustrated with false sex complaints which make up a quarter of sex offences they investigate. Last year, 147 sex offences were reported to Hamilton police. More than one quarter (41) were found to be false. In the greater Waikato, police dealt with 297 sex offences last year and 77 proved groundless.
The high number of false accusations also create difficulties for genuine victims. Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Whitehead of Hamilton CIB said police tended to delve more closely into sex complaints they receive, giving the impression of over-vigorous investigating. "Because so many sex offence complaints are shown to be false, we are obliged to look extremely carefully at every complaint we receive. In that process, extra trauma can be created for genuine victims." Mr Whitehead said.
The nature and complexity of sex allegations meant police put huge resources into those investigations. "Irrespective of other commitments, we will always push resources into these types of offences. As a consequence, other things will be put to one side."
One investigation into a sexual violation last year took nine police 42 hours to prove it was untrue. The investigation cost the taxpayer $7,417. The costs included salaries, doctors fees and forensic testing.
"It's not a case of disbelieving the complainant. We have to prove it is false."
Police rarely prosecute people who have made false complains about sex crimes. Mr Whitehead says police will focus on the reason for the false complaints. "Invariably, we will find there are other issues behind most false complaints. We try to have those issues addressed."
Reasons given to police in the past for making false sex complaints range from young girls who need to explain a pregnancy, failed relationships where a complainant is seeking sympathy or out of spite.
Detective Sergeant Ross Ardern of North Hamilton police says his staff come across a lot of social and psychological problems in their investigations.
One young girl who last year concocted an elaborate story about being sexually attacked was suffering stress. "Many young girls get caught in the trap of wanting attention."
Rape Crisis national spokesperson, Claire Benson, said while she disputed police statistics, there were many reasons for false sexual allegations.
Rape Crisis was looking forward to a new adult sexual assault policy, that will next year require a support person to accompany victims during police interviews.
The maximum penalty for a false complaint is three months' jail or a $1,000 fine.
Last December, a 15 year old Te Kowhai girl told Hamilton police she had been bashed and sexually assaulted by an intruder who came into her house armed with a length of wood.
She described her attacker in detail, emphasising a dog-collar tattoo around his neck. Police even issued an identikit picture of the man; a man who never existed.
On the first day of the inquiry, 13 police were assigned to the case. Two weeks and 235 investigating hours later, the girl's accusation proved to be false. The case cost police $18,800.
Officer in charge, Detective Sergeant Peter Van de Wetering, said the girl was convincing. It took several hours to extract the full details of her complaint, but that is not uncommon in sexual offence investigations.
By the second day of the investigation, flaws started to appear in the girl's story and detectives began to fear the complaint was false. By the fourth day, other issues began to raise their concerns.
The girl was referred to police youth aid, where she undertook to apologise to police. She has since expressed her remorse and gave police a parcel of fruit.
Mr Van de Wetering syas her parents were distraught and keen to resolve the girl's problems which led her to lie to police. "We're not in a position to expect anything more. We just hope she's learned her lesson."