Police have conducted a national audit of current child abuse files and found the vast majority are being dealt with in a proper and timely manner.
"The safety of a child is paramount in cases of child abuse. What I can say is that in all the 2752 files we looked at, the safety and protection of the child had been attended to and assured," Commissioner Howard Broad said.
The IPCA in its just released interim report agreed stating: care and protection issues were found to have been conducted in a timely manner where appropriate.
"Child abuse is an abhorrent crime and we want every investigation to be completed to the highest standard. It is disappointing that not every file was documented or conducted according to standards but the vast majority stood up to very robust inspection," Mr Broad said.
The national audit was undertaken after Police became aware of a backlog of child abuse files in the Wairarapa. "The delays with these files was unacceptable and we wanted to be assured that child abuse files were being dealt with in a timely manner with good procedures across all districts.
Operation Scope examined 2752 current and completed files. This was a national audit of active files and a sample of closed files. Of all of those, 186 were tasked for further examination with 61 files resolved and 125 active investigations still underway.
Mr Broad said the Operation Scope reviewers deliberately set a high benchmark and files were immediately tasked for further examination when the reviewers could not immediately establish that all aspects of the investigation had been done to the expected standard.
"I don't want people to think our system is broken when it is not. We have a desire to do our absolute best for at risk children and ensuring that we have the best practices, policies and procedures in place is extremely important in achieving this goal."
Mr Broad said child abuse investigations were difficult and complex and they involve added dimensions that other crimes do not have. Police manage about 5000 - 6000 cases of child abuse each year.
"I want to acknowledge the substantial commitment of police staff generally and investigators particularly to ensuring the safety of vulnerable members of our communities and to holding offenders to account.
"Our resolution rates for these crimes meet international benchmarks. We are apprehending and prosecuting these perpetrators."
Mr Broad said child abuse investigators work under considerable pressure. This is not just because of the type of investigation and the multi-agency approach, which places additional coordinating pressures on those involved, but also because there have been other actions by police in promoting family violence and child exploitation initiatives which has increased the workload on investigators.
"I came into this role with a reform agenda that includes focus on criminal investigations and protection of our most vulnerable.
"There have been substantial shifts in effort over family violence which is the cradle of future offending including child abuse. Our work I am sure is likely to result in the prevention of crimes in the future."
Mr Broad said he had a team working in conjunction with the IPCA since the issue was reported. He noted the report mentions the high level of cooperation and support that the police team has given the IPCA.
"On receiving this report I am motivated to get as many of the recommendations implemented in as short a time as possible and will be taking a taskforce approach to this.
"There are many actions already underway that will directly impact on child abuse and improve our service. The IPCA notes with approval the work we have already underway on some major change initiatives."
This action plan includes:
• The establishment of a Child Abuse Implementation team under an Assistant Commissioner to ensure that any changes to be made to our systems and processes are completed as quickly as possible.
• A national roll out of the case management system in the National Intelligence Application (NIA) which has been successfully piloted and is making a difference in the Auckland environment.
• Implementation of the new joint Police CFYs Child Protection Protocol, which was signed last month.
• Implementation of the Crime Reporting Line to support the referral process between Police and CYFs.
• Providing additional audit functions.
Mr Broad said he was in complete agreement with the IPCA that New Zealand has a sad history of child abuse and violence against children. "Unfortunately child abuse issues feature regularly in police operational reports and in the last three years it has been a rare week when child abuse has not been on the agenda for the Police.
"We absolutely agree with the IPCA that child abuse must be prevented. Police are part of the solution and to do this we must ensure that we are doing our job to the highest standard."
The IPCA report contains a number of recommendations on file management, audit policy, business documents and performance management which police will be working through.