Outcome of Operation Clover investigation (including Investigation Overview Report)

Outcome of Operation Clover investigation (including Investigation Overview Report)

National News

Police have completed a multi-agency investigation, Operation Clover, into the activities of a group calling themselves “The Roast Busters”. The 12 month enquiry focused on incidents involving allegations of sexual offending against a number of girls in the Waitemata Police district and wider Auckland area.

Following a lengthy and complex investigation, charges are not being laid by Police at this time regarding 8 incidents involving 7 victims and 5 suspects.

The officer in charge of Operation Clover, Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus, says this is a carefully considered decision taking into account a range of factors:

“These include the evidential test as required under the Solicitor General’s prosecution guidelines. These state that there must be a reasonable prospect of conviction for police to initiate a prosecution.  Other factors included the wishes of individual victims, the admissible evidence available, the nature of the offence and the age of the parties at the time of the offending.

A substantial review of the cases has also been undertaken by the Auckland Crown Solicitor, which has been taken into account by Police in reaching its decision. 

“Throughout the investigation the priority was for the welfare and privacy of the girls involved, and ensuring that all support options were made available to them.

“We have emphasised to both the victims and suspects that there is no time limit for reporting sexual offending. 

“This is an important message to potential victims who have decided not to seek police assistance at this time.” said Ms Malthus.

Detective Superintendent Andy Lovelock, who provided oversight of Operation Clover, says Police is taking the rare step of releasing the investigation overview report written by Ms Malthus:

“We are doing this to provide transparency and assist the public in understanding the complexities involved, plus the steps taken by the Operation Clover team.

“The investigation was a sustained focus for 12 months and I am satisfied that every investigative avenue available to the team has been fully explored.

"Should any further disclosures be made they will be assessed on a case by case basis and investigated appropriately." said Mr Lovelock.

 

Investigation approach

Operation Clover commenced in November 2013 with support from Child Youth and Family (CYF), and the Auckland service provider HELP- Support for Sexual Abuse Survivors.

At its peak, the multi-agency team comprised over 20 staff, including 13 specialist police investigators.

Operation Clover adopted a mass allegation framework for the canvassing of all girls.  Child Protection Protocols between Police and CYF were followed for girls under 17. The Adult Sexual Assault Investigation protocol was followed for girls over 17.

 

Canvassing phase

  • 110 girls canvassed.
  • 44 girls re-approached for clarification.
  • 25 girls invited to provide formal statements.
  • 5 girls provided formal statements.

Operation Clover began with an extensive analysis of social media. This identified girls who appeared to be engaged in online discussions that were cause for concern.   As a result of this analysis and other referrals 110 girls were identified for follow up action.

Forty-four of these 110 girls were then re-approached to better understand the information or disclosures obtained.

This resulted in formal interviews being requested from 25 of the 44 girls. Following extensive consideration by these 25 girls and their parents/caregivers, the majority declined to engage in a formal interview process.

 

Formal complaints

  • 8 incidents involving 7 victims were identified and investigated, including 2 of the complaints received prior to the commencement of Operation Clover.

While no offences were excluded, the principal offences investigated were:

1) Sexual Violation - Rape and Unlawful Sexual Connection. (S128B Crimes Act 1961)

2) Sexual Conduct with young person under 16 (S134 Crimes Act 1961)

 

Persons of interest and suspects phase

  • 30 persons of interest identified as persons of interest.
  • 5 males identified as suspects

In total 35 males were considered by Operation Clover. Persons of interest were those against whom formal complaints had not been received, however their behaviour was of interest and warranted further enquiry.

We want to be clear that the basis for interviews of the majority of these individuals was hearsay and rumour. There is little evidence in existence to accuse the majority of persons of interest of being engaged in criminal sexual offending.

Of the 35, the culpability of 5 suspects was considered for prosecution.

 

Other investigative activity

The investigation included the analysis of computers, smart phones, internet accounts and social media activity and evidence gathered by way of search warrants and production orders. Support for the investigation team included the police Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (OCEANZ) team, and the police Electronic Crime Laboratory (ECL).

 

Wider issues arising from Operation Clover

Detective Inspector Malthus says Operation Clover has highlighted some significant issues for New Zealand:

“The investigation overview report cites research by the Auckland service provider HELP- Support for Sexual Abuse Survivors in partnership with the Tu Wahine Trust. Their research suggests that there are many barriers which young people feel in relation to the disclosure of sexual violence to adults.

"The prevalence of alcohol in the lives of the teenagers interviewed, both male and female, was a concern to the Operation Clover team.

"There was also a poor understanding amongst the males and females spoken to as what 'consent' was. In addition there was an equally poor understanding by these teenagers as to the role alcohol consumption played in potentially negating the ability to consent.

"It is suggested that sexual education programmes may be enhanced by raising the emphasis around the issues of consent particularly when linked to alcohol and drugs and the ability of individuals to provide informed consent." said Ms Malthus.

ENDS

Links:

1. Link to investigation overview report:

http://www.police.govt.nz/about-us/publication/operation-clover-investigation-overview

2. Link to report "Breaking the Silence but keeping secrets: what young people want to address sexual violence" by HELP- Support for Sexual Abuse Survivors in partnership with the Tu Wahine Trust: 

http://helpauckland.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Breaking-The-Silence-FINAL-FINAL.pdf

Notes:

(i) Matters prior to the commencement of Operation Clover are subject to an ongoing IPCA inquiry. Police will respond to these matters on publication of their report.   The IPCA has already reported on the handling of initial communications with the public.

Link to Police response to the IPCA report:

http://www.police.govt.nz/news/release/police-response-ipca-report-roastbusters-communications

(ii) To avoid any confusion the term “girl” is used as a general reference to females, regardless of age.

(iii) Formal interviews involve the opportunity to conduct a full interview, ascertain fine detail of incidents and produce a formal statement that is recorded in a manner that could be produced in evidence in a prosecution. While a formal statement can be used in evidence, the making of such a statement does not necessarily mean that a formal complaint is being made or that the interviewee wishes to pursue a prosecution.

(iv) It does not necessarily follow that all those described as “victims” will consider themselves a victim.

(v) Solicitor General's prosecution guidelines:

http://www.crownlaw.govt.nz/uploads/prosecution_guidelines_2013.pdf

Issued by:

Beth Bates, Waitemata Police, Ph: 021 192 1243