I have been talking a lot about the prosecution of Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton for raping Louise Nicholas. But I've never taken the time to outline the entire story for overseas readers. My posts probably make even less sense now that I've deleted material, and to say why I've done so would break a suppression order. So I thought I'd summarise the case.
This post does not contain everything that I know about the case, since I have decided not to break suppression orders. This is also my opinion of the issues, so it's starting point is that I believe what Louise Nicholas says. Sometimes I come to a different conclusion from the jury. Deal with it.
Clint Rickards, Bob Shollum and Brad Shipton were all cops in Rotorua in the 1980s. During this time they used their power and their uniform to abuse young women. Louise Nicholas was one of those women. They raped her repeatedly. They would stop by her house and rape her. They raped her with a police baton.
People have posted to this blog about other abuses of power they observed by Rotorua police in the 1980s. People who worked with these men at the time have posted that they believe every word Louise Nicholas says. I find that so terifying, that lots of people knew what those men were like and didn't say or do anything. They didn't care about the women that were being hurt enough to stand up to those men. In the 1980s Louise Nicholas talked to a police officer, complained about what these men were doing to her, he took no action.
Louise Nicholas is not the only woman to be raped by Rotorua cops in the 1980s. She's not the only women to talk about being raped by Rotorua cops in the 1980s. But she is the one who has been prepared to go public. She didn't pursue name suppression, so the trial could be reported on openly.
She went to the police in the 1990s, she told a friend of hers who was also a cop and he encouraged her to go to the authorities. She did, the police reacted as you'd expect. They covered up for each other, they ensured that none of their buddies would go to jail (later one of those cops would make a death-bed confession to her brother, just for added drama). I believe that rape and abuse of power was so systemic that many cops would have a motive to cover up what Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton had done.
None of those men were charged; Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum left the police force, Clint Rickards rose through the ranks. By early this decade he was Assistant Commissioner of police, in charge of Auckland.
The Dominion Post (and I'm going to give them credit here, because I'm going to blast the media in a bit) did a good bit of investigative journalism in this case. Followed the whole story, found out about the systemic abuse of power in the Rotorua police. Louise Nicholas agreed to go on the record. You can find those articles here (warning the website owners don't believe Louise Nicholas, but they do keep a very throrough record of the case).
Since then the case has been investigated by the police, and there is a commission of inquiry into police behaviour, that is due to report back in May.
A couple of decades after the incidents happened Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum were put on trial for raping Louise Nicholas. On the first day of the trial Clint Rickards wore his police uniform, even though he was suspended. He obviously still uses his police uniform to get what he wants.
So many people call it 'The Louise Nicholas trial' - to many she was the person on trial. Even among people who believed her the language they would use was telling, people would talk about her defence lawyers, when of course she didn't have a lawyer, because she wasn't supposed to be on trial - it didn't work out like that.
Some evidence in the trial was suppressed, so I don't know everything that was discussed. I do know that the media did an appalling job of reporting on the trial. They focused on the salacious details, ignored any context, and implied that the trial as reported was the whole picture (you had to read quite carefully to even noticed that evidence was supprsed). The headline in the paper would read "Louise Nicholas Lies" and you'd have to read to the end of the first paragraph before it was clear that this was just what the defence were saying.
In the trial the fact that Louise Nicholas had told of being raped by other policemen, and that the verdict in the other trial had been 'not guilty' was considered relevant evidence. Even though such information is not supposed to be admissable. Even though information about the defendants past was considered irrelevant.
The jury deliberated for three days. After three days they came back with a not guilty verdict.
What Happened Next
I've written about waiting for the verdict, I've written about feeling like thousands of women were waiting with me. I didn't realise how right I was.
The verdict came in on a Friday night. On the Saturday a group of women held a banner saying "Louise Nicholas We Believe You" at the police college open day. Then, on the Monday morning, they gave out leaflets at the railway station.
These leaflets were headed up "We Believe Louise Nicholas", but they also contained some information that had been denied to the jury, breaking name suppression and opening up the possibility that these women would be charged with contempt of court.
It didn't end there. Suddenly the media reporting of the trial, which had previously been focused on the Shipton family talking about how he had been harassed by police, were covering people who believed Louise Nicholas. Some people who recieved a leaflet typed them in, and sent them to everyone they know, these people sent them to everbody they knew. The women who had stood outside the railway station were not the only people who believed Louise Nicholas, they weren't the only people who wanted to do something about it, and they weren't the only people who were prepared to break the law to do so.
I don't want to particularly talk about supression laws. There has been a lot of discussion about suppression laws. To me this seems like a way to avoid talking about rape, the systemic abuse of power, and the ways in which these men used their power to avoid consequences for their actions. I do want to pay tribute to the amount that ordinary women, and men, hate rape. How they see that justice hasn't been served, and how they're prepared to fight back. How many people have been prepared to ignore the law if they don't believe it delivers justice.
I don't know what's going to happen next, and what I do know I can't talk about. But there are things that you can do about this case.
You can send Louise Nicholas your support. If you e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will forward all messages to her. Or you can fax her messages of support by fax c/o Brent Stanaway, Crown Prosecutor, (643) 366 7474 (just 03 if you live in New Zealand).
You can write about this on your blog. Because these issues are not just relevant to New Zealand, rape and abuse of power by police is a problem all over the world (if you want to know more I do recommend this archive, even though I disagree with those who run it).
The women who are gave out leaflets are collecting money for their legal defence. I don't think they have the ability to collect overseas donations at this stage, but if you live in New Zealand you can deposit money into their bank account 389005005641800 through internet banking (although if anyone out there would be willing to collect money through paypal on their behalf I'm sure they'd appreciate it, e-mail email@example.com). Louise Nicholas also needs money to pay for her expenses. She had to take three weeks off work (as did her husband), and they lived in Auckland and paid for the hotels. E-mail me if you want to know how to contribute to that (a private individual is collecting, and I don't feel comfortable publishing her details on-line).
Finally I'd like to quote from an e-mail sent out by Women Against Rape today:
What can men do?Comment Policy: I will be policing this thread hard. If you don't believe Louise Nicholas find somewhere else to post.
Many women working on rape issues are not comfortable with mixed groups, for obvious reasons. However, there are other men who share your concerns and men can also do all the things listed above to organise against rape. The power you hold in our society means that you can often challenge other men about their attitudes towards sex and consent.
If other men valued women's rights to their own bodies and defined consent as something more than not fighting back, Clint Rickards, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton would not have got away with what they did.
Most importantly, ensure that all sex you have is not just consensual, but mutual.
Also posted on Alas