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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Police decision making in sexual assault investigation was sound

27 February 2020

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the Police's decision making regarding a sexual assault investigation in Palmerston North was sound. However, Police should have provided a written explanation to the woman who made the sexual assault complaint why Police decided not to prosecute the alleged offender, as required by Police policy.

The woman complained to Police in March 2017 that her employer had sexually assaulted her several months earlier. She alerted the officer taking her complaint that a senior officer at the Police station was friends with the alleged offender. Police assured the woman that this senior officer would not be involved in the Police's investigation of the alleged assault, due to his conflict of interest.

Police conducted their investigation and, by March 2018, decided not to lay any charges against the alleged offender. In August 2018, the woman complained to the Authority after seeing the senior officer's name on a document in the Police file. She asked the Authority to review the Police's investigation.

The Authority investigated and concluded that:

  • the senior officer was not involved in the sexual assault investigation; and
  • the Police's decision making in relation to the sexual assault complaint was sound.

"The Police's decision not to prosecute was made after appropriate enquiries, and a robust discussion by experienced officers in respect of evidential sufficiency. The Authority has reviewed the evidence in this case and, while it is finely balanced, cannot conclude that Police came to the wrong decision. Nor did it find a conflict of interest on the part of any officer involved in the investigation", said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.

The Authority also found that, while an officer had met with the woman to explain the Police's decision not to prosecute in this case, Police breached policy by not following up the discussion with a formal letter outlining the reasons for that decision.

Public Report

Complaint regarding a sexual assault investigation (PDF 317 KB)

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