A boy was allegedly raped by a man in a remote community early on Saturday morning, which the police media unit initially did not report publicly until being sent questions by the NT Independent.
A source said the boy was between eight and 12-years old and that the offence was committed by a man in his 40s.
The alleged rape happened about 3am, the source said, in a house in the community of Gunyangara – also known as Ski Beach – which has a population of about 300 people and is roughly 15kms east of Nhulunbuy.
NT Police media manager Rob Cross did not respond to a series of questions by the NT Independent about the alleged attack this afternoon.
But after being sent the questions, the media unit released a statement to inform the public that the man was arrested and will face court in Darwin tomorrow.
He has been charged with one count of gross indecency with a child under 16.
Police did not disclose what, if any, relationship the alleged attacker had with the boy.
As a matter of internal policy, NT Police do not respond to the NT Independent which violates the Police Administration Act and their own code of conduct and transparency guidelines.
The case is another example of NT Police not making sexual assaults public until after they are reported by the media, or not making the attacks public in a timely manner, or not making the sexual component of alleged crimes public.
In late March, the NT Independent reported on a spate of these that occurred this year.
Non disclosure of significant crimes by NT Police
Across nine days beginning from March 14, the NT Independent reported on five such cases, beginning with an article on the alleged rape of a toddler in Karama while he played in his fenced-in front yard that police originally determined was not in the public interest to disclose.
Following that report, the Children’s Commissioner Sally Sievers issued a statement saying she was “gravely concerned” by the alleged assault and said Territory Families did not provide information to her office in a timely manner.
That report was followed by four other incidents of alleged sexual assaults and attempted rapes over the previous three months that the NT Police media unit either downplayed or did not report to the public.
Directly after one article about the alleged rape of a sleeping woman in Alice Springs was published, Mr Cross issued a press release, the first police acknowledgement of the attack, even though police had previously reported a break-in at the house and robbery that happened at the same time.
On radio earlier that day, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the NT Police had a responsibility to inform the public of serious sexual incidents.
The final instance was a March 23 report of a sex offender caught outside a little girl’s bedroom with a “rape kit” who was arrested with video retrieved from his phone that showed he had been in the girl’s room on several occasions to sexually assault her – including one night when he hid behind the bedroom door while the child’s father had checked on her.
A police source was critical of the Gunyangara alleged attack not being made public soon after it happened.
“That should have been reported through the media for goodness sake,” the source said.
“The public has a right to know otherwise people live in a fantasy land about the real state of affairs.”
Police transparency guidelines versus what top brass have said
The NT Police’s “transparency guidelines” state that information on specific cases, including “timely, significant events of likely public interest” and “serious incidents such as … serious assault” and matters of “public safety” and “significant arrests” should be “considered” for public disclosure.
At the time of those sexual assaults being reported, first by the NT Independent, and then some by other media, high ranking NT Police members, including Jamie Chalker, gave various justifications to other media outlets.
Mr Chalker said it was up to the detectives in the case of the little girl who had a sex offender in her bedroom several times, whether they wanted to make it public at all.
He later said that the leaking of information about sex crimes that the police are suppressing – that is very much in the public interest – was akin to “throwing victims under the bus”. But he did not explain how serious sex crimes being reported to the public in a way that protects the victim’s identity is harmful.
NT Police Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage cited legislative restrictions, while Detective Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Grieve cited protection of the victim’s privacy, for not telling the public about the alleged horrific crimes, even though the media has to adhere to the same laws and would not prevent the attacks being made public.
Another officer said information about alleged sex crimes was really only to fulfil the gratification of a voyeuristic public.
These justifications were critcised by some of their own members.
Police Minister Nicole Manison was forced to deny that the government was told police to cover up information that was in the public interest.