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Silence on abuse may mean 10 years’ jail

Filed under: General — Jono @ 6:55 am Wed 13th April 2011

Silence on abuse may mean 10 years’ jail

By Claire Trevett
5:30 AM Wednesday Apr 13, 2011

Extended family and close friends of child abusers could face up to 10 years in prison if they turn a blind eye to abuse and do not report it.

Justice Minister Simon Power yesterday introduced changes aimed at protecting children from abuse and neglect, including a new offence making people who are close to a family liable if they do not report abuse to the authorities.

Mr Power said the changes would stop people from dodging responsibility for abuse under their noses.

“It will no longer be an excuse to say you were not involved in the abuse. Standing by and doing nothing makes you involved, and this bill makes it clear.”

The changes were partly driven by cases such as the deaths of 3-month-old twins Chris and Cru Kahui from severe head injuries in 2006, after which police struggled to get information from family members.

Under the changes, adults who do not live in the household but are closely connected to it must take steps to protect any child at risk of death, abuse or sexual assault.

Other adults in the same household would also be required to report abuse or face jail, and parents and caregivers have a new duty to intervene to protect children from injury, including abuse by others in their family.

The maximum penalty for cruelty to a child, such as neglect or ill-treatment, will increase from five to 10 years in prison.

The new law will also apply to carers of adults who need care because of illness, disability or age.

The Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said extending liability to people outside a child’s own household went too far.

She supported requiring parents and caregivers to protect children in their care.

But she was concerned about extending that duty to other family members, some of whom might be subjected to abuse themselves, and others who did not live in the household but were closely connected to it.

She said it would be better to support such families to prevent abuse – “not to threaten people with criminal liability”.

Mr Power also introduced a limit to the “claim of right” defence which was used by the Waihopai Three in their acquittal for damage caused to the Waihopai Spy base in 2008.

Under the change, the defence can be used only in cases where the person believed they had a personal right in the property concerned.

The Waihopai Three – Adrian Leason, Peter Murnane and Sam Land – used the defence to argue they believed they were acting for the greater good because disrupting satellite transmissions could save lives in Iraq.

Green Party MP Keith Locke said his party would be opposing the amendment.

“It is quite dangerous to abandon such a long-held way of defending yourself and to restrict it just to property you think you have some ownership rights over.”

The law changes also increase the penalty for possession of an offensive weapon, including knives, from two to three years in prison.


Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2)

* New offence of failure to protect child from death or abuse. Applies to adults in child’s house or those “closely connected”. Max 10 years’ jail.

* Doubles maximum penalty for child cruelty to 10 years.

* Extends legal duties of parents/caregivers to take ‘reasonable steps’ to protect child from injury. Maximum 10 years.

– Additional reporting NZPA


  1. Thank-you Jono. I have been waiting for this and wrote of it when the Welfare Working Group’s (Rebstock) Report came out.

    I didn’t think it was going to be this harsh though.

    Didn’t communism go this way? i.e everyone had to dob in everyone else? Didn’t it cause millions of deaths? We might not kill people this way anymore but putting them in prison isn’t good either.

    Oh well, I better get on the phone and dob everyone I know in. The definition of child abuse is soooo vague, everyone fits. And I better tell everyone to do the same. That way you eliminate the chances of being locked up. 😉

    PS… might leave it for another day as I’ve got work to do, lol.

    Comment by julie — Wed 13th April 2011 @ 8:42 am

  2. It might be prudent to put a country mile between yourself and any family member that you suspect might be neglecting or ill-treating their children, but don’t have ample evidence for authorities to act. It could save you enormous legal expense, stress and being incarcerated for up to ten years.

    Any adult victim (male or female) of a violent partner might think twice about revealing to authorities any historic child abuse perpetrated by their violent partner or risk investigation, prosecution and incarceration.

    I’m aware of a woman (Ms X), who regularly neglects and is violent towards her children. Ms X has been reported to CYFS many times, however she is a master of spin and always manages to convince CYFS staff that she is the victim of character assassination and that blame lies elsewhere. Witnesses to Ms X’s abusive screaming and physical violence have all but given up reporting her to CYFS. Ms X has previously attempted to kill her children (to a previous marriage) and regularly threatens to kill her two preschoolers to control the father of these toddlers. She regularly threatens suicide and there is historic evidence of her attempting suicide.
    Her four year old son recently became violent at preschool, acting out what he sees at home, and is currently being assessed for being placed on Ritalin while Ms X feigns surprise and confusion, acting innocent and attributing blame elsewhere. She is as cowardly as CYFS are incompetent!

    I fear these new laws might only further isolate abused children.

    Comment by Wayne — Wed 13th April 2011 @ 10:39 am

  3. Read between the lines.

    Laws don’t work on women.

    This law allows cops to arrest and convict the nearest man if the principal offender is a woman.

    Comment by yeah right — Wed 13th April 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  4. If the mother is abusing the children (which is the majority of cases) then the father can not do much at all. If he reports it he will be blamed and excluded from the childrens’ lives, which is not only a threat to his bond with the children but also places the children at greater risk.

    In any case, surely the main problem is that abuse that is reported is not addressed and mothers are not held accountable.

    Comment by Vman — Wed 13th April 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  5. Vman.

    I have had exactly this happen to me. I have been told by a family court judge in a hearing that the mother was fine to leave one of our children aged 4 home alone; and when my son called me to tell me he was very upset and wanted to talk to me privately but wasn’t allowed, I attempted to defuse the situation by txting his mum to allow him to speak to me; only to be told ‘no’. After calling cyfs, they advised a welfare check. The family court judge believes that I was wrong to do this.

    Can someone tell me when this new law comes into effect so I can work out how much time I have to leave the country ?

    I am punished when I call and will be punished if I dont!!!

    Comment by noconfidence — Thu 14th April 2011 @ 12:25 am

  6. DVA is a 20 years failure now.
    DVA produces more violence, more abuse and it is its promoters, guardians that need be prosecuted and sent to jail for failing this country.

    In Sweden they removed all authority from parents with regard their children discipline. Guess what? now they have a law that if their teenage child commits a crime they punish the parents with jail.

    Comment by tren (Christchurch) — Thu 14th April 2011 @ 5:49 pm

  7. OMG! Thank you for this information.
    If ever i find some abuse cases i will tell my concern to people who can lean a help.

    Comment by One ring Atlanta — Fri 15th April 2011 @ 4:11 pm

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