The Government has rejected a secret forum's recommendation that 10 women who alleged sexual misconduct by police officers get reparation.
A letter obtained by The Dominion Post reveals the forum chairwoman, Wellington lawyer Rachael Brown, recommended that the Government pay "financial redress" for alleged misconduct by police officers.
But the Cabinet has ignored the recommendation – angering women who spoke at the forum, including Donna Johnson, of Tauranga.
Ms Johnson – who alleged convicted rapist and former Bay of Plenty detective Brad Shipton stalked her and forced her to perform oral sex – questioned why the Government bothered with the forum if its key recommendation was going to be ignored.
Louise Nicholas, who accused former assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards and two other officers of raping her in Rotorua in the 1980s, is understood to be one of the women who alleged sexual misconduct. The men were acquitted.
The women began working with the Government in 2007 alongside then-Police Minister Annette King to set up the forum, an un-named victim told Radio New Zealand.
The forum arose from Dame Margaret Bazley's report on the commission of inquiry into police conduct, which led to a new code of behaviour for police.
The women were required to sign confidentiality agreements and were unable to discuss the forum with anyone else.
They now believed that was to stop more than 300 other women identified in Dame Margaret Bazley's report from taking part.
"We were always thinking...that it was a sly move (by the Government)," the victim said.
The eight women signed the agreements "to hasten the process".
"You imagine another 300 people joining - it is likely to draw it out for another few years and we were keen to get it over and done with."
The confidentiality agreements were believed to have expired after the most recent letters sent to the women were not marked confidential, she said.
The meetings with Ms Brown were "actually fantastic" but in hindsight the exercise was "a patronising pat on the shoulder", she said.
The women knew only that Ms Brown had recommended compensation, but were not allowed to see the final report or know anything further.
Solicitor-General David Collins, QC, wrote saying Mr Finlayson and Cabinet had "seriously considered" reparation but decided against it because it was not clear that it was the Government's responsibility.
"I know this decision will be disappointing. I hope that the opportunity to tell your story and be referred to additional services has been helpful," he said.
"If it's not clear, then from this letter we want clarity," the woman told Radio New Zealand.
The Government had suggested suing the police officers on a personal basis but the women "shouldn't have to", and could not afford to, the victim said.
But the women would continue fighting, she said.
"We're going do everything we possibly can. This may sound really terrible, but we were all raped lying down, we're not gonna lie down anymore. This is just not ok."
Letters from Mr Collins said the effect of the alleged misconduct could not be underestimated.
He said Ms Brown's report said it had had "a life-long" effect on the women and Ms Brown felt privileged to have heard from them.
Ms Brown said it would be inappropriate for her to comment about the Government's decision.
Another woman involved in the forum was the victim of a 1989 Mt Maunganui pack rape by former officers Bob Schollum and Mr Shipton and Tauranga millionaire Peter McNamara.
Another participant said New Zealand's system of ACC made it virtually impossible to sue the individual officers responsible for sexual misconduct against her.
"Why did they spend all that money going through with this if that is the result?" she said.
Ms Johnson said she had refused to sign an enduring confidentiality agreement.
She said there had been no accountability for her and hundreds of other women who spoke to Dame Margaret's inquiry, which revealed multiple cases of alleged sexual misconduct by officers.
Millions of dollars had been spent on the commission, which made recommendations for changes to police culture but left the women who gave evidence to it hanging in limbo, she said.
"I would have thought the current Government would want to conclude matters to a proper standard by addressing the grievances," she said.
"That's precisely what the forum was supposed to address but what the Government is telling us is that they have helped us by simply listening to us and believing us but then they've refused to take any responsibility."
She was not giving up and hoped other women who spoke to the commission would contact her as she intended to seek further legal advice.
Mr Finlayson said the Cabinet had had legal advice that there was no basis for a claim or ex-gratia payment to the women. The Government assisted where appropriate with seeking counselling and support, he said.
- with NZPA
- © Fairfax NZ News
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