National | Sexual Assault

‘Māori men are impacted most by false rape allegations’ - senior Māori barrister

Senior barrister Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams has said Māori men are the most impacted by false allegations of rape.

Phillips-Williams was speaking at the launch of new advocacy group, Social Justice Aotearoa, in Auckland yesterday.

Its founder, Jackie Foster, is a mother of two who formed the group after being dissatisfied with the criminal justice system during her son’s trial and conviction on a sexual assault charge.

“What worries me is that there are still, particularly women, complainants who lie,” said  Phillip-Williams, the Ngāti Hine lawyer who was married to the late-Sir Peter Williams QC.

“This means Māori men will end up in prison, whether it’s in remand prison, they are there until you can get them out and sort out the injustice before it goes further. But some don’t have that opportunity.”

Foster, of Ngāti Porou and Te Ati Haunui-a-Pāpārangi, hosted the launch attended by 50 family, friends, volunteers and supporters. She established the social advocacy and lobby group after the stress of dealing with the trial and conviction of her son, Jamie Foster.

“As a lot of you will know, my son Jamie was convicted and the shock and reality of him not coming home that day, I will not forget,” Foster said in a speech to launch her group.

Challenging the system

“I want Social Justice Aotearoa to be a group for all New Zealanders, not only supporting the downtrodden but a group that will challenge the system when things are not right.”

Jamie Foster was a police officer who was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for indecent assault and sexual violation of a female colleague, while the pair were at the Waitangi celebrations to work in 2019. He was granted parole in April this year.

He has maintained his innocence. Jackie Foster said her son received an unfair conviction because of suppressed evidence and she is dissatisfied with how the police and prosecution managed the trial. An appeal was declined but Jackie is looking at further legal options.

“It’s so important moving through the processes. The biggest thing for me is helping the families, not knowing what their journey is going to be. It’s important for me to help them on their journey.”

Phillips-Williams supports Foster and Social Justice Aotearoa and wants changes.

“It’s a good thing because she’s seen a lot with the justice system, the parole system, every system associated with our court systems. She’s seen it happening before her eyes. Obviously, there are some things that she is unhappy about that she wants her group of volunteers to rectify.”