THE level and standard of police investigation into sexual violence cases varies from poor to abysmal, a High Court judge says.
Justice Pallaras was speaking on his experiences and views from the bench in relation to sexual offending and family violence at the Family Violence and Youth Justice Workshop that started yesterday at the Honiara Hotel.
He said whether this reflects an ingrained attitude towards female victims by predominantly male police officers is hard to say.
“Whether it reflects the perverse influence that is open under the wantok system, I don’t know,” he said.
“But there is much to be done not only in the quality of the investigation process, but in assisting victims to cope with criminal and trial process.”
Justice Pallaras said proper Victim Impact Statements have to be taken.
He said there seems to be little knowledge as to how to do that.
Adding to that, he said full witness statements have to be patiently taken from victims, again, practices in this area are woeful with police officers going back to the same complainant several times before they extract everything she has to say.
“And most times they still can’t do it.
“Those poor investigative techniques simply add enormous stress to the victim in these cases and leave her open to criticisms during the trial that she forgot to say something to the police officer – when in fact had she been questioned appropriately, the evidence would have emerged naturally.
“And because she is criticised at trial, her credibility is affected and in turn the chances of a court relying on her evidence to convict are greatly reduced,” Justice Pallaras said.
He further added that it is not an exaggeration to say that persons accused of rape have been acquitted because of the inadequacy not only of the investigation overall, but because of the inadequacy of the specific methods of obtaining the evidence from the victim.
He said the government’s role in this area is crucial and so far its performances have been disgraceful.
“They speak fine words when the public glare is upon them but when you look around for shelters for women and children seeking refuge from a violent man, or for the medical support, or for the psychiatric or psychological counselling to help the victims cope with the overwhelming trauma that they have been subjected to, the government turn its back.”
Justice Pallaras said victim support in the country doesn’t exist and it is something that the government simply does not understand.
He said tragically it may take the rape of a daughter or wife of someone in the government before the Attorney General, or the Minister for Justice or the Prime Minister do the decent thing and do what is expected of them.
“Every one of them has been sitting on their hands for too long.”
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN