If someone is causing you ‘serious emotional distress’ or if your situation is serious (e.g. you are being threatened or the harassment is becoming overwhelming) you can make a complaint to the police.
You do need to keep in mind that the Police investigate incidents that are the most serious and even though it might be making you feel angry, upset or helpless, it might not be a crime.
This does not mean what is happening to you is ok, it just means that your situation does not meet the criteria that is described in the law.
The Police may suggest you make your report to Netsafe instead. There are a range of things Netsafe can do and support they can give to stop what is happening to you.
There is also still an option for Netsafe to refer you on to the District Court if they are not successful reaching a solution.
We have spoken with the Police and used their website and the Victims Information website to try and give you clear information about how the Police can help and what is involved. Check it out below.
How can the Police help?
After finding out what has happened and discussing your options, you will have the chance to make a report.
The Police can then investigate the situation and if there is enough evidence, charge someone with an offence under the Harmful Digital Communications Act (or potentially under another Act)
This can mean appearing in court. To learn more about what happens in court, click HERE.
Do my parents have to be involved?
When we asked what happens if you do not want your parents to be notified, the Police Privacy Officer shared this information with us:
Police will respect your need for confidentiality and privacy if you don’t want your parents or other significant adults informed of your complaint. However, there may be times when we need to override your wishes, for example if there’s a danger to you or others, your complaint is very serious, or the suspect is targeting other people as well and some of those other people are very young. Where we prosecute a suspect, the fact that you have made a complaint will become more widely known as well.
What about the Police Officer that comes to my school?
Your school may sometimes be visited by a School Community Officer.
This is a police officer who is specially trained to work with your school’s staff, students, parents/whānau, and the wider community to help make your school a safer place.
You might meet them when they come to your school to help teach students to be safe and feel safe. They’ll also be working with your school’s principal and staff to make the school a safer place that encourages positive behaviour.
They are available if you think the police could be involved in what has happened to you and are wanting advice about making a report.
How do I get in touch with the Police?
Do this through your local station
You can either phone them (Click HERE for how to find the numbers of the Police Stations) or by going in person.
What happens when I phone the station?
The Police say:
When you call your nearest station, the phone may be answered by a police officer or by an employee working at the front desk. In either case they will be able to tell you what to do next.
You may be put through to the Crime Reporting Line. Staff will then collect as much information as possible about your complaint. You will get an email confirming your complaint has been received.
Like any complaint taken by Police, it will be analysed to see whether there is enough information to move forward. Police will contact you to let you know what action has been taken.
What happens if I go to the station in person?
You can take a support person with you or ask Victim Support to meet you (Victim Support 0800 842 846), you do not have to do this alone.
The Police say:
Talk to the person at the front desk (they may be a police officer or an employee) and they will tell you what to do next. Depending on your complaint you may be able to speak to an officer straight away to make a report.
You don’t always need an appointment, but to make sure someone will be there to assist you it is best to phone ahead – especially if your nearest station is a small or rural station.
Only call 111 if it is an emergency ( e.g. a crime is taking place or if anyone’s safety is at serious risk).
What are the steps involved?
- Report what has happened (you can take someone with you to do this in person)
- Give a formal statement
- Give any screenshots or other information you have to support the police to collect evidence. Other people may be interviewed at this stage.
- The Police will ask you if you want to be connected with Victim Support or other services.
- If the charge will be heard in court and you are called as a witness or will give a Victim Impact Statement, the police will meet with you to go over your statement and also to let you know what to expect.
- You have the option of being connected with a support person in court to help you through the process. If you think this might help, ask the police officer supporting you.
- You will be kept up to date with the progress of the court case.
Making a report
You can talk to the Police to discuss your options before deciding if you will formally report what has happened.
Reporting a crime gives you the chance to stop what has been happening to you and stop the other person from doing it (to you or to someone else)
Victims Information have some great information for people that have been affected by crime, click HERE to visit their site. They say:
When you make a report, tell the police exactly what happened. The police officer will write down what you say.
After you have reported a crime, the police will:
- explain the investigation process
- ask you if you want to stay informed about the progress of your case
- ask you how you would like to be contacted
- send you a letter or a complaint acknowledgement form with a file reference number
- refer you to Victim Support or other support services if you need them.
Police reference number
After you have made your report (also called a ‘complaint’), the police will give you a Police NIA reference number or a Police File Number (PFN).
You should refer to this number when you contact the police.
Giving a Statement
Victims Information give more great information on their site for people that have been affected by crime, click HERE to check it out. The information below is from their site.
If you are the victim of a crime, the officer in charge will ask you to make a detailed statement about what happened. This is different to reporting the crime.
You may be asked to make a statement when you report the crime or later on. You do not need to have a lawyer when you make a statement.
Tell the police, in your own words, everything you remember about what happened. Sometimes the questions police must ask might be difficult or embarrassing to answer.
Try not to leave anything out, even if you don’t think it is important.
In some cases, police may use a voice recorder or record a video of you giving your statement as well as taking notes.
When you report the crime, you may be in shock and might not be able to remember everything that happened. If you remember something later – no matter how small it is – contact the police and tell them. It could be important.
How your statement is used
The police keep a record of your statement. If the case goes to court, a copy of your statement is given to the accused person’s lawyers.
If you have to give evidence at the trial, you will be given a copy of your statement to refresh your memory.
How will I know if I have to go to court?
If you are called as a witness, you will be given a letter called a summons. It will tell you when and where the court case is going to be held. If you receive a summons, you must go to court.
As a victim, you also have the right to make a Victim Impact Statement, which tells the court how the crime has affected you.
If you are a victim but have not been called as a witness you don’t have to go to court, but you can go if you want to. If you do want to go, tell the officer in charge and they will let you know when the case is going to start.
What is a victim impact statement?
A victim impact statement can help the judge understand how the crime has affected you and decide what sentence to give the offender. It gives you a chance to talk about how you feel, and what has happened to you because of the crime.
A victim impact statement is different to the statement you make to the police, where you tell them exactly what happened at the time of the crime.
It’s about explaining how the crime has affected you:
Who can make a victim impact statement?
Any victim of crime can make a victim impact statement. Sometimes other people who have been affected by the crime can make a victim impact statement, but only if the judge agrees.
Do I have to make a victim impact statement?
Victim impact statements are optional. You don’t have to make one if you don’t want to. If you decide not to make one, the court will still consider the impact of the crime on you through the evidence from the court case.
No one can change your victim impact statement without your agreement. However, the prosecutor needs to make sure the content is suitable for the court and might advise you to change it.
Victim impact statements in the youth justice system
The youth justice system operates a bit differently from the adult criminal justice system. In the Youth Court the main way you give your views to the court is through a family group conference plan, although some victims of offending by a child or young person may be able to read their victim impact statement in court.
If you are a child witnesses (this includes children and young people), you can get extra support and protection when you go to court.
You can access the Court Education for Young Witnesses programme and give your evidence in different ways.
There are also special legal rules to protect your privacy and identity.
Your right to be informed about a case (whether it goes to court or not)
Victims of crime have the right to be told within a reasonable time what is happening with the case, unless the information could harm the investigation or the court case.
The police, your court victim advisor or the prosecutor will tell you:
- the charges filed against the defendant
- reasons for not laying charges
- your role as a witness
- when and where the hearings will take place
- the outcome of any criminal proceedings, including any proceedings on appeal
- an offender’s progress on a plan agreed at a family group conference.
You can ask for this information to be given to someone else who will then explain it to you.