Decision 'outrageous' says Wairarapa abuse victim

SEAMUS BOYER - WAIRARAPA
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2013

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A victim of a child-sex abuse coverup is outraged that a police investigation into those responsible will be kept secret.

Detective Senior Sergeant Mark McHattie, along with 17 other staff, was investigated by police after the wrongful resolution of dozens of Wairarapa child abuse files in 2006.

Mr McHattie, then head of the Masterton CIB, claimed "hand on heart" that 142 files had been reduced to just 29 in three months.

However, the Independent Police Conduct Authority later found 33 had been "filed incorrectly" or "inappropriately resolved".

Since then, an unspecified disciplinary "outcome" has been imposed on Mr McHattie by police - and he has been promoted to be head of the Auckland CIB's serious crime unit.

When police refused to reveal what, if any, punishment he had received, The Dominion Post took the matter to Ombudsman David McGee.

In a preliminary ruling, Mr McGee has said Mr McHattie was not "solely responsible" for the coverup, and publishing results of the investigation would breach his privacy.

The decision has angered an adult victim of the child abuse, who told The Dominion Post it was "outrageous".

"It should be out in the open, definitely," she said. "Why do they just get to move on with their lives and nothing happens?"

After the scale of the scandal was made public in 2008, a police investigation dubbed Operation Hope led to her case being reviewed, along with 550 other files in Wairarapa. As a result, her abuser was charged with multiple counts of indecent assault, and jailed after a trial in 2010.

"I had to wait a long time for my trial because I first went to them in 2005," she said. "It would have saved a lot of pain in my life if they had pulled finger instead of just chucking the files."

OPERATION HOPE

In 2008 an investigation into the Wairarapa backlog starts, which leads police to revisit 7000 child-abuse files nationwide, going back more than 25 years. It finds that hundreds of children reported as sexually abused by family members were failed by police through delays, poor investigations and improper filing.

In Wairarapa, police review 550 cases, leading to 41 prosecutions of child abusers and a number of convictions. In 2010, the Wellington district child protection team is established, with 24 specialist detectives and interviewers based in Wellington, Kapiti, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa.

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- The Dominion Post

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