‘Sleazes’ and ‘sharks’: Cop exposes sex crime underbelly
A "SLEAZY" taxi driver, "sharks" circling vulnerable women and older men taking advantage of intoxicated victims unable to consent were among the hundreds of sexual assault reports to Sunshine Coast police in recent years.
Maroochydore Criminal Investigation Bureau's officer-in-charge Daren Edwards said he was not alarmed by an ABC report which found 25 per cent of sexual assault claims to Sunshine Coast police were "unfounded" in the decade to 2018.
The national average was 9 per cent, Queensland's was 19.9 per cent.
Detective Senior Sergeant Edwards believed the Sunshine Coast's data in-part reflected police had strongly encouraged people to report if they were, or believed they were, victims of sexual assault.
He said reporting could lead to prosecution, or help build a case against serial offenders.
Sgt Edwards said "vindictive" false reports, such as those filed when relationships soured, contributed to the numbers.
A Queensland Police Service spokesman said claims were "unfounded" when there was sufficient evidence to reasonably suspect the alleged offence did not occur.
This included reports created in error, mistakes in facts reported by the informant or no breach of the law involved in the alleged offence.
The data found in the five years from 2014 to 2018, 80 of the 451 cases (17.7 per cent) reported on the Sunshine Coast were "unfounded", 38 were unsolved, 149 were withdrawn and legal action was taken in 184 cases.
In Noosa, the unfounded rate was 16.7 per cent (14 cases).
In recent years and particularly in clubs, Sgt Edwards said he had noticed a culture shift from individual predators to a mob mentality.
"Now it's like they all get together, like a mob of sharks, and try to target them," Sgt Edwards said.
He said Safe Night Out Precinct personnel and security worked with police, particularly on Ocean St, to help vulnerable people get home safely.
But Sgt Edwards said some assaults were happening on private premises, in social gathering situations and others had reported "date rapes".
Sgt Edwards said the region's data painted a similar picture to that of the Gold Coast, which also shared "high tourist influx".
"A high number of our reports are bad nights in tourist season, or holiday environments," Sgt Edwards said, and added alcohol was often involved.
Sgt Edwards said sometimes the decision on how a case was categorised was out of their control, such as when victims withdrew their claims or the prosecution determined there was not enough evidence to proceed.
Sgt Edwards encouraged people to go to sexual assault support service Laurel House if they were uncomfortable approaching police, and go to the hospital straight away if they were injured.
He also urged people to tell somebody immediately as that person's evidence would be considered an exception to "hearsay rule", should the matter proceed to court.
Women were more likely the target of sexual violence, Sgt Edwards said, and often predators' poor attitudes began from a young age, in the home against their sisters and mothers.
Sgt Edwards said police could always improve their approach in dealing with victims and how they collected statements and evidence, and said he worked within a sexual response network which helped identify any failings.
Sexual assault support
Call triple-0 in the case of an emergency.
Contact Laurel House Maroochydore on 5443 4711 or 1800 697 877 for after-hours crisis support.
Sexual assault data from 2014 to 2018
- Unfounded: 17.7% (80 of 451 cases)
- Unsolved: 8.4% (38 cases)
- Legal action taken: 40.8% (184 cases)
- Withdrawn: 33% (149 cases)
- Unfounded: 16.7% (40 of 84 cases)
- Unsolved: 13.1% (11 cases)
- Legal action taken: 53.6% (45 cases)
- Withdrawn: 16.7% (14 cases)
- Unfounded: 15.6%
- Unsolved: 10.4%
- Legal action taken: 45.1%
- Withdrawn: 28.9%