The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is looking into what happened to children, young persons and vulnerable adults while in State care, or in the care of faith-based institutions between 1950 and 1999. This includes girls’ and boys’ homes, youth justice residences, foster care, psychiatric and disability care, and different types of schools.
As well as being able to look into physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse and neglect, the Inquiry will also be able to look into inadequate care or improper treatment that resulted in serious physical or mental harm to individuals.
The Royal Commission’s focus is on the period between January 1950 and December 1999, with an underlying discretion to consider abuse and neglect that occurred beyond that timeframe. As well as looking backwards to determine what happened in the past, the Royal Commission will also seek to identify what needs to change to prevent any abuse or neglect from happening again in the future.
The Royal Commission is set to run over several years, with an initial report to be provided by December 2020 and a final report to be delivered before January 2023.
How Police is involved
In its broad terms of reference, the scope of the Royal Commission includes abuse or neglect which occurred in “transitional and law enforcement settings” – including Police cells, Police custody, and transportation to and from other places of care.
Police is also being asked to provide input to some of the public hearings the Royal Commission is holding. An example is the case study which the Royal Commission conducted into the operation of the Child and Adolescent Unit at the former Lake Alice Psychiatric Hospital. (One of the backdrops to the Royal Commission’s Lake Alice hearing was the decision of the United Nations Committee Against Torture issued in late December 2019, which addressed a New Zealand citizen’s complaint of abuse and ill-treatment while at the Child and Adolescent Unit during the 1970s. A further UNCAT decision involving a second New Zealand citizen’s complaint was issued in July 2022).
How Police will support the work of the Royal Commission
Police is working with a special, independent, Secretariat, which will be coordinating input to the Royal Commission across all affected government agencies.
Police will deal with any reports of alleged historic physical or sexual assault, or other abuse or neglect, which get referred to Police as a consequence of the Royal Commission’s work.
It may be that individuals disclose previously-unreported experiences of abuse or neglect. If this happens, protocols have been worked out with the Royal Commission for matters to be referred to Police for investigation as possible historic crimes. Details about these referral pathways have been set out in a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Royal Commission and Police, a copy of which is available here.
As part of this MoU, Police will investigate all referrals of incidents of abuse received from the Royal Commission.
During the Police investigation, if there are any immediate safety issues (whereby an alleged offender is still working in a care facility, as a teacher, social worker or other such official caring for young people and/or vulnerable adults), Police will contact the governing body of the relevant agency to ensure any immediate safety issues are managed.
Requesting records or other information
You can request information online, either information about yourself (under the Privacy Act) or other information (under the Official Information Act).
The Privacy Act enables you to request information about yourself. You do not have to be a citizen or permanent resident, or be in New Zealand to request it.
The Official Information Act 1982 (or OIA) enables you to make a request for official information held by public sector agencies, including New Zealand Police. New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, visitors to New Zealand, and body corporates registered or with a place of business in New Zealand can make a request under the OIA.
Alternatively, download either our:
Where to learn more
The Royal Commission provides news and updates on its external website. The terms of reference guiding the Royal Commission’s work are also published there. To immediately report experiences of abuse or neglect, whether or not you or someone you know intends to share these experiences with the Royal Commission, there is a range of information on our website about how to report a crime, plus advice specifically for anyone who wants to report sexual assault.
Regardless of whether an assault is historic or happened only recently, police and other specially-trained people can assist victims and/or those reporting the sexual assault, along with family/whānau, to help decide what to do next.
Likewise, if you have any concerns about abuse or neglect that might be happening to children or other vulnerable people currently in care, please notify these concerns as early as possible to either Oranga Tamariki (the Ministry for Children) or local police, so that safety assessments can be made as quickly as possible by specially-trained staff. Read this Frequently Asked Question for more information on what steps you can take.