Abuse case sparks call for CYF watchdog

Close Up 25 January 2012
The family values lobby group Family First is renewing its call for an independent Child, Youth and Family Complaints Authority. The call follows the case aired on TV ONE’s Close Up this week of an Auckland solo father continuing to abuse his two children for almost three years after it was reported to Child, Youth and Family by neighbours. Troy Dunn was finally prosecuted last August, pleading guilty to assaulting his son and injuring him with intent. He had thrown the boy down the stairs, and hit, kicked and punched him in the head, leaving him with a perforated eardrum. Dunn was jailed for 20 months. CYF has launched an investigation into how it handled the case, saying it wasn’t proactive, made some poor judgments and misjudged the father.

National Director of Family First Bob McCoskrie told Close Up tonight that families contact his organisation saying they have no independent body to complain to if they feel that either CYF had not acted when it should have or have acted “completely over the top” where it shouldn’t. McCoskrie said if there was an independent CYF Complaints Authority the neighbours who reported the abuse in the Dunn case, Grant and Merryn Straker, would have had somewhere to go to. McCoskrie said CYF needs monitoring, like that done by the Independent Police Complaints Authority of the police force. He said within 30 minutes of a man being shot in the leg by police during a domestic dispute at the weekend, there were two independent investigations happening.

However, Sandra Alofivae, a barrister and former Families Commissioner, disagreed with McCoskrie’s suggestion, saying there are already organisations mandated under the law to monitor CYF. McCoskrie said CYF has an internal complaints process “and nobody trusts it and nobody knows about it and nobody’s using it”. Alofivae responded that CYF has a complaints process “and it’s about making people aware of how you actually ratchet it up”.