Abhorrent, cruel, deviant, disgusting, inhuman, immoral, shameful, sickening . . .
All of these adjectives can be applied to the people portrayed on the sexploitation Facebook page, Roast Busters, and their exploits.
The story so far raises lots of questions, one of which is why the police allowed the page to stay up for so long.
Last night 3 News revealed police had been monitoring the ‘Roast Busters’ for two-and-a-half years, but it wasn’t until 3 News contacted Facebook that their page on the social networking site was taken down.
In videos uploaded to the internet, 17- and 18-year-old Auckland men brag about their sexual conquests, who are often drunk and underage. The teenagers also actively recruit new members. . .
Police told 3 News they haven’t been able to take action against the group – aside from a warning – because none of the victims have laid a formal complaint.
“We would love to take some positive action for these girls and others who may be victims in the future, but without actual evidence my hands are tied,” says Detective Inspector Bruce Scott.
“None of the girls have been brave enough to make formal statements to us so we can take it to a prosecution stage or even consider a prosecution stage.”
And the Roast Busters’ Facebook page was allowed to stay online for similar reasons.
“These things obviously did breach Facebook’s terms and conditions, but it takes somebody to see it and make that complaint in order for action to happen,” says Mr Lyons.
Are the need to gather evidence for prosecution and the prevention of more crime mutually exclusive?
Could the police not have identified the perpetrators, interviewed them and alerted their families and schools to what was happening?
Couldn’t they at least have alerted the public to protect the girls and possibly prevent more rapes?
Answering those questions might be easier than finding out how people in a supposedly civilised country can be so divorced from civilised behaviour.
The Harmful Digital Communications Bill being introduced to parliament by Justice Minister Judith Collins might help prevent this sort of abuse in future.
“The Harmful Digital Communications Bill sends a strong message to those who continue to harass and harm others online – time’s up.”
Research shows one in five New Zealand high school students has experienced some sort of cyber bullying or harassment.
“Cyber bullying can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, particularly young people. This Bill will protect victims and hold perpetrators to account.”
Proposals in the Bill include:
- Creating a new civil enforcement regime that includes setting up or appointing an approved agency as the first port of call for complaints.
- Allowing people to take serious complaints to the District Court, which will be able to issue remedies such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.
- Providing a legislative mechanism for people to easily and quickly request the removal of harmful content from websites, which also clarifies the law relating to website hosts (called a “safe harbour” provision).
- Making it an offence to send messages and post material online with intent to cause harm, punishable by up to three months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine.
- Creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life, punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
The Bill includes changes to relevant criminal and civil law to ensure they cover all forms of harmful communications, regardless of whether tormentors use “online” or “offline” means. It also future-proofs the laws against technological advances, to ensure they remain relevant.
But it will take a lot more than legislation to address the causes of these heinous crimes.
The FAQs on the Bill are here.