Police failed to follow up sexual abuse claim

Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012
tineke foley

SUSPECTED SUICIDE: Tineke Foley’s last Christmas with her family. She died five months after making a complaint to police saying she had been sexually abused by a male nurse.

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A former Christchurch couple could not bear to spend their daughter's birthday hearing evidence of the "tragic events" surrounding her death.

Details of a police investigation into a sexual assault complaint made by Tineke Foley only months before her suspected suicide were outlined at a coroner's inquest in Christchurch District Court yesterday.

Her parents, Ebony and Peter Foley, originally planned to attend the inquest, but instead celebrated what would have been Tineke's 36th birthday "remembering and cherishing" her at their Taumarunui home.

Tineke Foley died in March 2010, five months after making a complaint to police that she was sexually abused by a nurse while a patient at a Christchurch mental health facility.

She left a note for her parents, who were unaware of the allegations, asking for "justice". The Foleys contacted police, and then, through a lawyer, made a complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).

Detective Dale Forman and his supervisor, Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Keane, were reprimanded after the IPCA's investigation found inadequacies in Forman's handling of the case, the court heard.

Christchurch police professional standards manager Brent Mikaera said in his evidence that peer reviews of the IPCA report found Forman "formed a mindset" about the legitimacy of Foley's claim within a few hours of his investigation.

Foley was not medically examined, nor interviewed according to adult sexual assault investigation guidelines, in which Forman was not trained, Mikaera said.

One peer review, by Detective Inspector Tusha Penny, found: "The investigator should have appreciated the vulnerability of the victim in this case . . . [she] was the ‘perfect victim', because of her lack of credibility in any complaint."

Margaret Smyth, lawyer for the Foleys, said Forman, who did not give evidence, told the nurse over the phone the matter would "go no further".

While being questioned by Smyth, Keane said he was not privy to the conversation, and had understood at the time the matter would be "fully investigated".

Keane took over the investigation after Foley's death. In his evidence, he said he formally interviewed the nurse, whose name is suppressed.

Keane said he also hoped to interview other patients, but this was not possible because he was advised the patients were not medically fit to be interviewed by the police. 

There was insufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution, Keane said.

Keane and Forman attended a "disciplinary meeting" with Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald in August 2012 over the initial investigation and Keane's ongoing management, Mikaera said.

Keane and Forman accepted the inadequacies, and Fitzgerald was "satisfied that this [their handling of the case] was an isolated incident", Mikaera said.

Anne O'Brien, lawyer for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, told coroner Richard McElrea the accused nurse had been subject to extensive investigation by the Nursing Council, which found Foley's allegations were "not supported by evidence".

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Ebony Foley said that once McElrea presented his report into Tineke's death, she and her husband would "finally be able to grieve".

The couple hailed the IPCA report as a "huge step forward".

"We feel like we've finally got somewhere and are in some way making a difference because they're thinking of using Tineke's story to help train police officers," she said.

There would be "so many other people with similar stories" to her daughter, a "warm, loving person" who loved art and music.

- The Press

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