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‘Insufficient’ investigation revealed that the man was falsely accused of sexual assault

An Auckland man was “wrongly” charged with serious sexual assault after officers conducted an “inadequate” investigation, the police watchdog has found.

The findings were part of an investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) which examined how officers handled an incident where a man was falsely accused of a serious crime for over a year.

The man’s ordeal began on October 25, 2019, while he was giving a woman a tour of a rental property he owned.

Five minutes after arriving at the property, the woman locked herself in the bathroom and called 911, claiming the man had threatened her and tried to sexually assault her, the IPCA noted.

The man was arrested shortly after the police arrived. The IPCA ruled that the arrest was justified because officers “had initial reasonable grounds to suspect that he had committed serious offences”.

The woman told police that after she refused to have sex with him, the man punched her in the face and head several times, tried to remove her underwear, ripped the buttons off the front of her dress and threatened to kill her. murder.

This was despite the fact that none of the officers observed any visible injuries on the woman, the IPCA noted. The watchdog also noted that the buttons on her dress had been undone and pulled off, but had not been ripped off. The woman had also refused to visit a doctor.

The man was taken to Avondale Police Station where he was interviewed by a trainee detective.

The police watchdog said the man raised several points during questioning that should have led police to question the veracity of the woman’s statement. The man told the officer there was insufficient time to commit the alleged crimes, based on the short timeline the woman provided.

He also believed he had been ‘set up’ by a man previously accused of assault – to whom the woman may have been linked.

The IPCA also found that the man had cooperated with officers, waited quietly outside when they arrived and spoke openly to them. He also showed no resistance during his arrest.

The watchdog said: “If a more thorough investigation had been made into the available evidence, police would likely have found that the woman’s claims at least warranted further investigation.

“Police could have charged the man with a lesser offense while assessing and investigating the information.”

Instead, he was charged with threatening to kill and assault with intent to commit rape.

The IPCA said the man’s lawyers and others raised several points throughout the investigation, casting doubt on the woman’s allegations. It took police almost a year to review the timeline of events and extract data from the woman’s phone.

Just as the man was set to appear in court, police discovered “inconsistencies” in her story and revealed that she was connected to a man who tried to extort the man for property and money.

After the discovery, his charges were dropped. The man remained in court for 469 days after charges were first filed.

As a result, the man and his family suffered “significant financial, emotional and reputational damage.”

The woman was charged with making false statements. However, the charges have now been dropped.

In its investigative analysis, the IPCA said that while the initial steps were “orthodox and appropriate”, the “deficiencies in the investigation included the subsequent thoroughness and timeliness of the collection and assessment of the evidence and a lack of regulatory oversight”.

“The time it took for police to discover that (the woman’s) claims were false is compounded by the fact that from the day of his arrest (the man) put forward statements and methods that the police could have to expose (the two women’s claims). ) statements as false.

“Like the issues with the timing and the ties between (the woman) and the person who may be extorting (the man).”

“It said that if the investigating officer had sought more help from his seniors, the police could have concluded much earlier that the woman’s claims were false.

“Police should have conducted a more thorough, ongoing review of the evidence as required by the Adult Sexual Assault Investigation policy.”

The IPCA advised the police to talk to the man and negotiate compensation for the time he spent as a suspect.

The police respond to findings

Acting Chief Inspector Sunny Patel said police acknowledged and accepted the IPCA’s findings.

“While the initial arrest at the scene was justified, we accept the findings surrounding the subsequent review and supervision of the case.

“Had police conducted a more thorough review of the evidence at the time, as required by the Attorney General’s Prosecution Guidelines, we would likely have found that the woman’s allegations warranted further investigation.”

“This ultimately meant that the charges against the man were in court for significantly longer than necessary,” Patel said.

Patel also said police personally apologized to the man. Patel also admitted that there was a lack of oversight and guidance from relevant regulators during the investigation.

“This has been addressed as a performance issue by the staff involved and clear expectations have been set for the future.”