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IPCA finds Police failed to act on sexual assault complaint

12 February 2015 - A report released today by the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police failed to ensure the responsible handling of a sexual assault complaint and unfairly predetermined the outcome based on the mental health history of a female complainant.

On 11 November 2012 the woman told Police she had been sexually assaulted by a security guard at a hospital where she was a patient. At the time Police took very little action in relation to this allegation. However, in August 2013, the security guard was arrested for an unrelated sexual incident and charged with that matter and for sexually assaulting the woman who complained in November. Despite this the woman was not advised of the security guards arrest at the time.

On 5 September 2013 the woman complained to the Authority that the Police failed to investigate, failed to inform her of the security guards arrest and claimed Police discriminated against her due to her mental health.

In releasing today’s report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said although the woman has a history of self-harm and was well known to mental health services, hospital staff and local Police, Police should have made appropriate enquiries in November 2012 to determine what action was required in relation to the complaint.

“The Authority also found that the frequency and nature of the woman’s contact with Police prior to her allegation influenced the officers involved to unfairly predetermine the outcome of her complaint which in turn led her to believe the Police had discriminated against her.

“The failure of Police to take sufficient steps to determine whether any further enquiry was needed resulted in the woman’s complaint being mishandled and undermined some opportunity for further investigation of her complaint at the time. It also impacted on the provision of appropriate support services to the woman.

“Finally the Authority found that the woman should have been advised by Police that the security guard she alleged sexually abused her was arrested and charged in relation to her complaint,” Sir David said.

On 5 February 2015 the security guard was found guilty of the sexual assault and is currently awaiting sentencing.

The Authority notes that its investigation into this incident was completed in August 2014 however ongoing court proceedings prevented the publication until now of this report.

 

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