Thursday, February 10, 2011
Failure to protect a child from abuse will finally become illegal this year, more than 12 months after Justice Minister Simon Power first announced it.
Mr Power said in December 2009 that the Government would make it a crime for adults to turn a blind eye to risk of death, serious injury or sexual assault of a child or vulnerable adult, such as the elderly, in their homes.
This followed Law Commission recommendations in the wake of the deaths of twins Chris and Cru Kahui in 2006.
Mr Power had said he would introduce a bill early last year as part of reform of the Crimes Act. However, this work had proved complex and the tougher child abuse laws would now be enshrined in separate legislation, the Crimes Act Amendment Bill, he said yesterday. He hoped to make an announcement before the end of next month.
"The legislation will ensure that it will no longer be an excuse to say you were not involved in abusing a child when you lived in the house and knew of the abuse taking place."
Prime Minister John Key, in a statement to Parliament yesterday, confirmed legislation would include tougher penalties for child abuse and measures to improve the treatment of children who appeared in court as witnesses and victims.
Further changes may stem from a ministerial inquiry into the case of a nine-year-old Auckland girl who was allegedly tortured by her parents, and the abuse concealed by several people.
"Despite decades of good intentions from government, we're still failing too many of our kids," Mr Key said.
The Law Commission recommended doubling to 10 years the maximum sentence for cruelty to children after the Kahui case, in which no-one was convicted and relatives were reluctant to co-operate with the police investigation.