Failure to act on child abuse now illegal

Radio NZ News 19 March 2012
People who knowingly turn a blind eye to child abuse are now liable for a maximum of 10 years in jail under law changes taking effect on Monday. The Crimes Act has been strengthened in response to the 2006 killing of twin baby boys Chris and Cru Kahui which remains unresolved. Some members of the Kahui family – nicknamed the tight 12 – were accused by police of withholding vital information after the boys’ deaths. Their father, Chris Kahui, was later acquitted of murder and no one else has been charged. From Monday, law changes make it an offence for anyone over the age of 18 living in the same household or closely connected to the family to fail to act on child abuse they are aware of. The penalty will also apply to hospital staff who know a child is being mistreated or in danger of being killed. The law changes also double the maximum penalty for cruelty to a child from five to 10 years in prison.

Abuse law won’t work: Kahui lawyer
NZ Herald 19 Mar 2012
…..Lorraine Smith, who represented Mr Kahui, said the law change would not reduce the country’s terrible child abuse statistics. “Some people who do see or suspect abuse, these people do report it,” she said. “The very people to whom [the legislation] is directed are often too damaged to have the capacity to report the abuse, because they know there are consequences if they do report it, and they know that the police won’t be able to protect them. This is the atmosphere that the abuse of children and vulnerable people happen.” Ms Smith said those within the household where abuse occurs are often victims of the circumstances themselves. “How is it going to help? How is it going to encourage people who are in a situation where they are living in a dysfunctional household and who themselves are often fractured and damaged and paralysed with fear about the consequences of reporting abuse?” Ms Smith said nurses and others outside of the family who see abuse usually will not hesitate to report it, regardless of the legislation.

….Detective Superintendent Rod Drew told Radio New Zealand police will put the new law to use. “Child abuse in New Zealand is a significant problem that we’re all working together very hard to try and resolve, so we can reasonably expect that we will use this legislation.”