‘Unbelievable’: Alleged daylight rape in residential street not identified as sexual assault by police

by | Mar 22, 2021 | Cops | 3 comments

An attack involving a woman allegedly raped on a footpath in front of homes during the day by an alleged perpetrator who was on the run for several weeks after the incident was not made public by the NT Police for three days, despite a media outlet reporting an eyewitness account the day after the incident.

It follows a series of alleged rapes or attempted rapes that have happened this year and reported by the NT Independent over the last eight days, that have either not been made public by NT Police or have been identified only as aggravated assaults, the aggravating factor in these cases being the power difference between an alleged male perpetrator attacking a woman.

The NT News published an eye witness account of the alleged attack in Nakara on February 17, a day after it was said to have happened, which described it as an alleged rape of a woman while another man watched, and as the woman screamed for help. At the bottom of the article it had NT Police Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Grieve confirming police were investigating an “alleged assault”.

The same witness to the attack contacted the NT Independent saying they were very sorry to have to tell the story of what transpired, which they described as “unbelievable” and something they “would never forget”.

Their confronting account was also one of an alleged rape and said the woman was screaming for it to stop and that she had only met the men sometime earlier.

They said police had told them there was vision of the attack from a neighbor’s CCTV.

But a police media release was not issued until the afternoon of February 19, despite the men being at large in the community.

Police media manager Rob Cross referred to it as an assault and said the woman was taken to Royal Darwin Hospital for assessment, while he called for witnesses.

In a media release on March 4, Detective Sergeant Jon Beer said a 26-year-old man was arrested over the alleged “aggravated assault” on a 31-year-old woman on February 16.

The release, which came out at 4.40pm, said the man was arrested that day, and he was expected to be charged with “multiple offences” later that day.

Under internal police procedures, the running sheet on each alleged offence, which the media unit sees, would have what charge the person would be facing. One of the police sources said that as the man was in custody there was no procedural reason not to identify the sexual nature of the alleged attack, nor a danger to the integrity of the investigation in doing so.

Another source said they could see no reason why a media release would not have been issued sooner. The police source however said sexual assault cases were difficult to prove.

With no charges provided by police, and a description of assault or aggravated assault rather than a sexual assault, and further, with laws preventing the publication of an alleged sex offender’s name until they are committed to trial, it makes it less likely for media to report on the sexual assault matters in court, particularly in the early stages.

Mr Cross did not respond to questions from the NT Independent, including if the man had been charged and why those charges have not been made public. He also declined to comment on why the attack was not made public through a media release after it happened.

Lack of disclosure of sex assaults raises concerns within police ranks

One police source said that from the description of what happened and the fact there were witnesses, they believed the charge should have been be upgraded to either attempted sexual intercourse without consent, or sexual intercourse without consent.

Police have not said publicly if the man has been charged and it is unclear whether the man has faced court but in a case of serious assault it is typical for a suspect to be remanded, and they would usually appear in court within a day.

However police would need to rely on the victim to provide evidence for an assault. When asked, Mr Cross did say whether the woman had withdrawn her complaint or not.

A well-placed police source has said the lack of disclosure was being used as a method to help cover up sexual assault as a political mechanism for the Gunner Government while another suggested that the “assaults” and “aggravated assaults” terminology was being intentionally manipulated in media releases to obscure sexual assaults, although they said they had no concrete evidence of that.

“The bad thing is police can get away with that [describing an alleged rape as aggravated assault], as indecent assaults can be categorised as aggravated assaults,” a police insider said.

“Frustrating, and I think at times it’s used to be intentionally misleading.”

An emerging pattern

On March 14 the NT Independent reported that a three-year-old child had been allegedly raped by a man through the fence of the toddler’s front yard in Karama. The alleged attack happened four days before but NT Police had not disclosed it despite having caught the alleged offender soon after. Mr Cross did not respond to NT Independent questions about the incident.

The following day, on the Monday, Mr Cross issued a press release about the attack and other media started reporting on it.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker did not hold a press conference or speak publicly about this assault or the others exposed by the NT Independent despite criticism in the media and by the public of the information not being released, and despite him taking time the week before to pen an opinion piece for the NT News about COVID-19 and his control of the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

NT Police Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage fronted the media saying the information had not been released so as to  maintain “operational sensitivity” so they could conduct a “comprehensive and thorough investigation”.

A police source said they did not understand Mr Smalpage’s explanation.

“The [alleged] offender was in custody, key witnesses had been identified,” they said.

“There was no reason not to release the offence. His explanation did not make sense.”

Detective Acting Superintendent Mark Grieve said police did not release information because protecting the victim’s privacy was paramount. However, the media is legally prevented from publishing any information that would identify the victim.

Meanwhile, NT Police Commander Martin Dole told Katie Woolf on Mix 104.9 on Tuesday: “It’s not our policy… it’s not common practice to put this stuff out in the media instantly, for everyone else’s gratification.”

On March 18, the NT Independent reported that police had not disclosed the alleged anal rape of a woman while she slept in her bed in Alice Springs by a 15-year-old boy who was on bail on February 22, when a media release about an alleged break-in and theft from the house that happened at the same time.

Mr Cross also did no respond to the NT Independent’s questions about the incident.

Half an hour after that article was published Mr Cross issued a confusing media release which did not give a date for the alleged crime but acknowledged the alleged rape of the woman and a charge of one count of sexual intercourse without consent but he did not make it clear if the youth had ever been bailed.

It said the boy had been arrested the next day and had had his charges upgraded but did not say when those charges were upgraded nor why, nor what he was previously charged with. It said he was further remanded on March 5 but gave no detail of what led to that.

On March 19, the NT Independent reported that three male teens, one 13-years old, one 14-years old, and one 15-years old, with all of them on bail or suspended sentences, allegedly attempted to rape a woman at Pinelands in January 12.

Mr Cross did no respond to NT Independent questions about the incident.

In a press release issued on January 13, Mr Cross described the alleged attack as an aggravated assault, which police insiders said was a deliberate measure to cover up sex crimes for the Gunner Government. The press release did not mention charges, only that the boys were being interviewed.

In response to these articles, CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro said the Gunner Government needed to answer serious questions around their potential involvement in suppressing information from getting to the public.

Ms Finocchiaro’s comments come as the NT Independent sent questions to NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker, media manager Rob Cross, Police Minister Nicole Manison and Chief Minister Michael Gunner over what influence the fifth floor is exerting on police media not to report sex crimes.

 

(Visited 2,795 times, 1 visits today)