Stuff.co.nz 7 Dec 2011
Child advocates are hailing new laws giving sweeping powers to prosecute all those turning a blind eye to assaults on the very young. The Crimes Amendment Act (No3) becomes law on March 19 and will allow police to charge everyone in a household with failing to protect a child. The maximum sentence is 10 years’ jail. The new law comes as a result of the public outcry following the murder of the Kahui twins for which no-one has been held responsible after a jury acquitted the twins’ father. However, the extended family’s infamous “code of silence” was typical of such cases, pediatricians say. In Taranaki, a serious assault of a 14-month-old, who suffered a fractured skull, was dropped last month for lack of evidence.
Starship children’s hospital paediatrician Patrick Kelly welcomes the law which allows everyone in a house where the abuse took place to be charged. The message is that they should have protected the abused child. “If you can’t determine which of the adults in the house did it you charge all of them – or none of them.” However, the law change should have gone further, he said. The code of silence within families was an issue throughout the world. In Britain, the same “failing to protect” law was implemented but went further to limit the right to silence. “The UK has shown it’s possible to modify the law. For some reason New Zealand did not follow through with changing the right to silence.”