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Police handling of Rewa Investigation

IPCA delivers its findings on Police handling of Rewa Investigation

Although an Independent Police Conduct Authority inquiry has identified some faults with a series of investigations conducted by Police into offending by Malcolm Rewa, there is insufficient evidence that any of these impacted on the ability of Police to identify Mr Rewa earlier as the serial sex offender.

Malcolm Rewa was arrested in May 1996 and convicted in 1998 on multiple charges relating to the sexual assault of 25 women spanning almost a decade. He was convicted and sentenced to 22 years in prison and was later sentenced to a further 14 years, to be served concurrently, for the sexual assault of Susan Burdett.

In conducting its inquiry the Authority considered four complaints it received about the Police handling of the series of sexual assaults committed by Mr Rewa across a number of Police districts.

In releasing today’s report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said the Authority found that Police failed to properly investigate information implicating Mr Rewa as the offender for the sexual assault of Ms A. In particular, Police did not obtain a statement from Ms A following her attack in 1987 regarding her identification of Mr Rewa as the offender, nor did Police attempt to make any inquiries that might have corroborated or called into question the alibi given by Mr Rewa at the time.

The Authority’s inquiry also considered public comments made by a Detective Inspector in 1998 to the media and Ms A, at the time of Mr Rewa’s trial. The Authority has found that these comments, including that Police did all they could at the time of the incident and that there had been insufficient evidence, were inaccurate and demonstrated that he did not have an adequate knowledge of that file.

“However, the Authority is unable to determine whether, if a proper investigation had been undertaken at the time, Mr Rewa would have been arrested and successfully prosecuted,” Sir David said.

The Authority notes that there have been statements in the public arena about this case, in particular in TV3’s 3rd Degree programmes where it was suggested that Police overlooked Mr Rewa’s involvement in six incidents, including three sexual assaults, at addresses in London Street, Ponsonby. The programme stated that Police failed to take action in these instances and implied that Mr Rewa was not therefore earlier apprehended as a serial sex offender.

“The Authority found that there was no action that Police could have taken in respect of any of the different types of offences which occurred in London Street that would have identified Mr Rewa earlier as the serial sex offender,” Sir David said.

It is also important to note that the Authority has not considered Teina Pora’s conviction for the murder of Susan Burdett in 1992 as part of its investigation as this is outside the jurisdiction of the Authority and is currently before the Privy Council.

The Authority did receive a complaint from Mr Pora’s defence counsel that the Police failed to disclose relevant information to them at Mr Pora’s first trial. In response to this the Authority found that Police did not withhold relevant disclosure material.

The Authority identified various aspects in a number of investigations where Police strategy and practices relating to the handling of investigations into sexual assault matters did not meet the expectations of policing at that time, such as poor practices in interviewing complainants; lack of supervisory oversight; and the failure to follow-up positive lines of inquiry, coupled with a greater priority being given, at the time, to other serious crime.

“There have been significant practical, scientific, and technological advances in policing since that time, therefore it would be unfair to compare Police actions of that era with the standards of today,” Sir David said.

“The Authority has found that at the time of the Police investigations, spanning from 1987 – 1996, it was not common practice for intelligence to be shared between districts, nor did a platform exist to allow this to occur easily. Police work at this time was primarily paper-based and it is unlikely that traditional methods of policing could have uncovered the operation of a serial sex offender earlier.

“Today there is a different approach to adult sexual assault cases, generally and progress has been made particularly with regard to the treatment of victims of sex crimes. This can be in part attributed to the 2007 Commission of Inquiry’s report into Police Conduct.

“The Authority is therefore satisfied that no changes are required to current practices, policies and procedures in response to the Authority’s findings,” Sir David said.



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