EDITORIAL: The NT Police brass have been rightfully rattled by the NT Independent’s series of reports over the last two weeks, outlining the details of five sex crimes they either failed to notify the public about or outright attempted to downplay.
We make no apologies for that.
We informed you about serious incidents that you needed to know about that your government and its police force chose to suppress for their own reasons.
We reported those crimes because we believe you needed to know that a three-year-old was raped in his own fenced-in front yard, that a woman was nearly raped by a gang of youths out on bail, that another woman who lay in bed was violated by yet another teen out on bail, that a woman was raped in broad daylight in a residential neighbourhood and that a registered sex offender preyed on a small child by sneaking into her room on different occasions – all of which was not reported to the public by the NT Police media unit.
We reported those incidents because you need to know what is happening in your backyard, your street, your neighbourhood and your town or city. It’s about protecting yourself and your children to ensure these horrific crimes don’t continue.
Perpetrators thrive in silence.
Contrary to what the police say, the NT Independent, and all other media organisations, are obligated under the same “legislative restrictions” as police in what can be reported.
Protecting victims is at the forefront of our minds with every horrific story we run. We know the details of the crimes are disturbing, and we also know that no matter how distressing they are, you need to be informed of what is happening in your community so you can protect yourself.
We are committed to going further than the “legislative restrictions” to protect victims’ identities and have taken those measures. We also believe however, that there is a better way to keep the community informed and protect the victims than the current police-run spin cycle, but that it takes hard work.
In grown-up jurisdictions, the police and media work together to disseminate crucial information to the public for the greater good.
Here in the NT, the police refuse to speak to the NT Independent for reasons they have never explained, despite being specifically asked.
Instead of acting professionally and working with us, the police media spin unit went into overdrive the last two weeks, with the executive trotting out three different characters to clumsily explain why they suppressed the sex crime stories.
Senior brass claim ‘no public interest’
The first bloke – Cmdr Martin Dole – took to radio to claim all parents who read our stories were really only looking for “instant gratification” – getting their kicks out of reading this horrific stuff – and that it was not in the public interest to report the rape of a toddler who was playing in his front yard because police had caught the perpetrator.
The fact it happened – and questions about whether it had occurred before – was not in the public interest, he determined.
When Mr Dole’s lines did not remedy the PR crisis, the brass brought out Assistant Commissioner Murray Smalpage, who trotted out similar nonsense during a radio interview about how police have their hands tied over releasing information due to those “legislative restrictions” – the exact same legislation the media is restricted by, including to not identify victims of crime.
When that didn’t work, Assistant Commissioner Nick Anticich – the same senior police executive who apologised to Territorians late last year for failing to properly investigate the sexual assault of three teen girls who killed themselves in a remote community – published a letter approved by the commissioner to the NT News to complain about the NT Independent.
Despite being given every opportunity by the NT Independent to comment on the five suppressed sex crime stories before we published them, the police did not respond.
Instead, they waged a tone-deaf media blitz after the fact that did not include owning up to their failings.
This is especially troubling given the current national discussion and public outrage over sexual violence against women.
None of the executives addressed their own mismanagement of police resources that has led to the public completely overcome and terrified by crime.
In his missive, Mr Anticich extolled the virtues of living in a police state where cops are given free rein to do as they please, with no questions asked by the public. He suggested the public wait until a case goes through the clogged court process before anyone even gets a whiff that it happened.
Under this plan, it could take years before you know that a sexual crime occurred.
In a very heavy-handed and out-of-touch way, Mr Anticich also seemed to threaten to charge sources who have spoken out about the police brass and media unit not reporting serious sexual assaults.
Let’s make this very clear: The NT Independent only knew about the five unreported sex crimes because the executive and media unit weren’t reporting what frontline officers wanted reported. Sources came forward out of disgust.
No directive needed in the NT, where self-interest is instinct
Police Minister Nicole Manison told Mix 104.9 host Katie Woolf last week that the accusation her or the Chief Minister gave an order to police to suppress the reporting of sex crimes was “absolute nonsense rubbish”.
Apparently, in this town, it’s all a coincidence.
Kind of like how the Gunner Government has an illegal and unconstitutional ban on the NT Independent not to respond to us that the police brass just happen to follow.
There was no directive, we’re told.
Of course not, in this place, where senior police executives and the government have been found lying to the public on a regular basis, you don’t need to send the directive. It’s an implied necessity – a certain instinct they have developed for their own self-preservation – and the message is if the public don’t like it they can all go to hell.