Dom Post on child abuse

August 15th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Over the past five years, more than 50 children have died as a consequence of .

The names of Sahara Baker-Koro, James “JJ” Lawrence and Karl Perigo-Check are now seared in the national consciousness alongside those of Nia Glassie, Chris and Cru Kahui and James Whakaruru.

But, despite the public expressions of dismay, the political tut-tutting and the considerable efforts of police and social workers, children living in a land of plenty continue to be killed and beaten by those they have every right to expect will love and cherish them.

The sweeping law changes unveiled this week by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett are an attempt to turn the tide by making bureaucrats more accountable, introducing a form of mandatory reporting and banning child abusers from working, living or socialising with children.

Some were concerned that the green and white papers would be a talkfest that led to no change. It is good to see that significant changes are proposed.

Another proposed change – giving judges the power to ban suspected, but not proven, child abusers from contact with children has raised the hackles of civil libertarians. However, presented with a choice between trampling over adults’ rights and trampling over children, the minister has chosen to tilt the balance in favour of vulnerable children.

The select committee which considers the legislation may yet have something to say about allowing courts to impose child harm protection orders “on the balance of probabilities” rather than the higher criminal standard of “beyond reasonable doubt”. The threat of injustice is real.

But, given New Zealand’s sorry record of protecting its most vulnerable, the minister’s precautionary approach is understandable.

I have doubts over the threshold, and want to see evidence that you need to extend CHPOs to people without convictions.

However when talking about this on radio last night, I did think of a possible example. The Kahuis. It is beyond doubt that either the father or mother neglected or killed the twins. They basically blamed each other, which meant neither was convicted beyond reasonable doubt. However we heard enough to form an opinion that they were very bad parents. So maybe that is the sort of case intended?

New Zealand’s horrific record of mistreating children has not just seared itself on the national consciousness, but on the minister’s consciousness as well. Future generations may have reason to be grateful.

We will need more than just law changes. As I mentioned earlier today policies such as placing kids with extended family need to be reevaluated also.

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27 Responses to “Dom Post on child abuse”

  1. RRM (9,836 comments) says:

    However, presented with a choice between trampling over adults’ rights and trampling over children, the minister has chosen to tilt the balance in favour of vulnerable children.

    Oh what bullshit.

    But I guess if a few law-abiding, taxpaying adults get summarily branded as “Child abusers”, well, that is a price Paula is willing for them to pay. How nice of her.

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  2. Wayne91 (143 comments) says:

    Choice 1

    Nia was subject to extensive physical abuse for weeks, possibly even months, before being admitted to hospital and dying of brain injuries on 3 August 2007. The court concluded she had been kicked, beaten, slapped, jumped on, held over a burning fire, had wrestling moves copied from a computer game practiced on her, spit on, placed into a clothes dryer spinning at top heat for up to 30 minutes,[1] folded into a sofa and sat on, shoved into piles of rubbish, dragged through a sandpit half-naked, flung against a wall, dropped from a height onto the floor, and whirled rapidly on an outdoor rotary clothes line until thrown off.

    Choice 2

    “But I guess if a few law-abiding, taxpaying adults get summarily branded as “Child abusers”

    I’ll go with choice 2

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  3. Lucia Maria (2,309 comments) says:

    If the children are in such danger of being abused, the Government already has the power to remove those children from that situation, without needing to pass such draconian legislation. CYFS already can keep children away from abusive parents, even if those parents have been found not guilty by a court of law. More laws to solve the problem will not help.

    Our high abuse rates have everything do with children being born to parents in irregular family relationships (ie they’re not married), which are increasing not decreasing. The Government should stop normalising these sorts of relationships, and start incentivising true marriage rather than further degrading it (the latest Government normalisation being same-sex marriage). Marriage is for raising children, those that aren’t married shouldn’t be having them.

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  4. Lucia Maria (2,309 comments) says:

    Wayne,

    In your choice no 1, the chief abuser was a teenage boy that the mother had been living with in sexual relationship since he was about 13 years old, I think.

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  5. Andrei (2,570 comments) says:

    If anyone actually believes that an army of bureaucrats, mostly armed with Waikato University Social Science degrees, are going to fix this problem they need their heads read

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  6. gravedodger (1,552 comments) says:

    The “sock” syndrome is a serious factor in play here and some monitoring of benefit scenarios might provide an early intervention opportunity.

    I have considerable disquiet over the classing of ignorant, unable to cope, hopeless parents with limited intelligence as state sanctioned from an active role in the childs life as fraught but as with any action most can see the very bad but when marginal becomes the mark to be decided upon there is a significant option for error.

    50 in 5 years is one thing but what about the unreported probably hundreds even thousands damaged that don’t quite die.

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  7. Wayne91 (143 comments) says:

    Lucia –

    The Mother, her partner, his brother, the little girls cousin and the brothers partner are all in jail for this

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  8. Jinky (184 comments) says:

    Who is going to care for those children removed by CYFS from their terrible parents? As reported earlier this week there are thousands fewer CYFS caregivers in 2013 than there were in 2008!! Any of you internet warriors willing to house some of these damaged kids?

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  9. Wayne91 (143 comments) says:

    Fair question Jinky, Have close relatives doing it and looking into it myself.

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  10. Lucia Maria (2,309 comments) says:

    Wayne,

    Doesn’t negate my point. The mother was having a sexual relationship with a boy. We shouldn’t be surprised the whole sorry lot of them are completely dysfunctional.

    Which goes to the absolute need to reinvigorate the traditional family in New Zealand. Increased state power will just it worse.

    Ten years from now, everyone will be looking at the stats trying to figure out why Paula Bennett’s brave new reforms didn’t work as the number of abused children increases. We’ll be debating privatising CYFS to see if that will fix it, I bet.

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  11. Kea (12,411 comments) says:

    Many of the caregivers are dysfuntional themselves. They are often people who have gone off the rails in the past and consider that makes them qualified to advise others, because they have “been there”.

    I have some advice for those contemplating taking on those damaged kids. Don’t. It may sound harsh, but you are better off to see your own kids right. As Lucy says, stick with the traditional family.

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  12. David Garrett (7,110 comments) says:

    This is one helluva hard one…When I first learned about it here I was strongly opposed to labeling someone as a child abuser based on “suspicions”…like most others, I am pretty sceptical about the ability of some 22 year old from CYF (or whatever it’s called at the moment) making this kind of potentially devastating decision…Then more of the detail has emerged, and it became clear that a Judge would have to make an order… that’s a major improvement on some bureaucrat doing it, but then – as others above have said – there is the issue of the standard of proof.

    This legislation will need careful and thorough consideration by a Select Committee before I am comfortable with having this power handed to the state….But then, as Wayne91 has eloquently pointed out, we are dealing with the most vulnerable members of our society here…This a bloody complex one…

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  13. Wayne91 (143 comments) says:

    Lucia – yes we need to get at the heart of the problem agree, That will take time, cross party support, etc etc more hui – no doey. That is not going to protect those at risk right now. We need urgent actions NOW to protect those at risk. No more endless words.

    We need some urgent drastic action, thats why i support the proposals. Surely you agree whatever we have in place now is not working. Some people out there are beyond help or at the very best need significant ongoing help that may be too late to be effective in time to prevent further abuse and deaths.

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  14. Nostalgia-NZ (5,119 comments) says:

    Banning child abusers from contact with children isn’t dealing with the Nia Glassie case for example because from what I recall none of those convicted had earlier convictions for child abuse. As Lucia Maria points out there is already power to remove children from homes where children may be in danger.

    On the subject of the Kahui parents, neither has been convicted. It isn’t clear who killed them, I do know the father Chris Kahui has current intervention in his role parenting his daughter from another relationship.

    The proposed legislation is looking to be moving the deck chairs about, more resourcing is needed and more support. There are disturbing cases and unfortunately there always will be. Yet the fact remains many of the perpetrators have no previous convictions or no convictions of abuse. Some of the extra resourcing should be to continue raising public awareness about speaking where there is abuse, and support for that cause. Better to have a network of national concern among the population that results in reporting and intervention, that would be the most effective tool in fighting abuse

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  15. Nostalgia-NZ (5,119 comments) says:

    ‘Surely you agree whatever we have in place now is not working.’ Got statistics to support that Wayne, you’re suggestion of ‘not working’ is too broad, measures are working. As pointed out above resources have been cut, that isn’t helping and needs to be looked at first.

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  16. Camryn (539 comments) says:

    I’ve been thinking about the announced Children’s Action Plan and it seems to me that it is closer to addressing the issue than anything recently tried.

    There are many who appear to think that child abuse is primarily a problem of the “house” (i.e. context). Potential causes like poverty, racism and so on. The main issue with this is that the vast majority of the people experiencing that context still don’t abuse their kids. Trying to alleviate child abuse by alleviating poverty is very indirect and also highly quixotic.

    There are many more who think that child abuse is a problem of the “head” (i.e. rational thought). Bradford’s anti-smacking bill was arguably in this vein in that the intention appeared to be “if we make it clear than no smacking at all is tolerated then people will know what they’re doing is wrong and will stop”. Clearly child abusers aren’t being rational and are not reflecting on what society thinks.

    I think that child abuse is a problem of the “heart” (i.e. morality). Our society is producing a large number of people who are incapable of love. That seems a harsh statement, but love means putting yourself second. Clearly many New Zealand parents are incapable of putting themselves second to their child (or partner, for that matter). By “putting themselves second”, I mean controlling their emotions and desires in the best interests of the “loved” party. Child abuse is essentially a form of extreme selfishness. This is the crux of it.

    How we address this moral failing is certainly up for debate and is no easy fix either. It will likely take a variety of changes. To me, paraphrasing Theodore Dalrymple, the key will be reasserting that judgement is OK – both in discourse and in systems. Some will say that we need a return to the mass morals of the recent past (a full repudiation of moral relativism). I’m of the mind to think of a pendulum settling in the middle i.e. we should not return to discrimination in spheres where morality is more relative (e.g. sexual orientation) but should take care not to apply that mindset where morality is more absolute. The dividing line is harm to others (as libertarianism is very clear about). Violence of all forms is clearly on the absolute side of the moral spectrum. So is abdication of self responsibility (as it harms those forced to be responsible on behalf, to the extent we’re all forced to via our welfare state).

    So, why do I praise the current plan as being on target? Well, it has the right target. It is a recognition that we have people in our society who don’t have acceptable morality and says “we need to take measures to minimize the harm these people do”. It’s not fixing the causes of this lack of morality, but is is putting the ambulance at the bottom of the correct cliff.

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  17. Wayne91 (143 comments) says:

    Nostalgia – “Over the past five years, more than 50 children have died as a consequence of child abuse” is the only statistic I know and need.

    Hidden behind the stats is the pain and suffering

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  18. Nostalgia-NZ (5,119 comments) says:

    There is a lot more hidden behind the stats, information to help make informed decision and debate.

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  19. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    DPF asks:

    However we heard enough to form an opinion that they were very bad parents. So maybe that is the sort of case intended?

    No. If the mother fell pregnant again there is sufficient statutory power to apply to have the child pretty much seized as it’s head emerges from her womb.

    What about the recidivist burglar. He’s before the courts and has been convicted a couple of times before, but this time a jury – having heard days of testimony – finds him not guilty. What the hell, chances are he’ll burgle someone else so let’s allow the judge to slap 10 years worth of home detention on him as a precautionary measure in direct contravention to the verdict. Come to think of it, this whole idea of “trials” sounds like a huge waste of money…

    Meanwhile Wayne91 suggests:

    We need some urgent drastic action, thats why i support the proposals.

    Which translates perfectly as “We must do something! This is ‘something’. Ergo, let’s do that!” A logical fallacy so common it even has a name.

    While David Garrett points out:

    …a Judge would have to make an order… that’s a major improvement on some bureaucrat doing it, but then – as others above have said – there is the issue of the standard of proof.

    Have you ever practiced Family Law, David? Or even spent much time in the Family Court? Mercifully I hadn’t till recently (my ex-partner is a relative Saint) but then got roped in to helping out a friend. That was 5 years ago. I have seen perjury proved, by evidence and even under cross-examination, over and over again (not just in his case but in the ones we sit through waiting for his to be called).

    I’m not talking self-serving perjury either, but allegations of molestation, stalking, even kidnapping. Stuff that, if you falsely said it under oath in any other court, would see you spending considerable time behind bars. The penalty for the women – for it is invariably women – who make these allegations? Not so much as a reprimand from the judge.

    When I last made submissions suggesting the grandmother had no credibility as a witness and listing her perjury dating back around a decade (when she lied about growing hydroponic cannabis and was called a “manipulative and cunning distorter of fact to suit her own ends” by the Magistrate) through the lies she has told over the past five years, the judge’s response was “that’s all historic. Do you have anything of current relevance?”

    The grandmother need only cast her eyes down and say “I am ashamed of my mistakes your Honour”. The mother – a proven methamphetamine addict (through her failure in multiple urinalysis over the five years) is an equally accomplished liar (when she can be bothered turning up) begins sobbing and saying “I just want my baaaaaaaby”. In both instances, all is forgiven. While the father – a hard working, almost tee-totalling (I’ve seen him have two drinks on NYE) business owner is guilty of every accusation till we can prove him innocent.

    And you’d like me to trust a judge to apply the Wisdom of Solomon, without gender bias, in this instance? I’ll pass, thanks…

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  20. Lucia Maria (2,309 comments) says:

    Camryn,

    An ambulance at the bottom of the cliff already exists. This is like adding armed police down there with it that is authorised to take pot shots at anyone that might look over the cliff and an army of bureaucrats at the top with the power to push people over.

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  21. Lucia Maria (2,309 comments) says:

    Rex,

    Which translates perfectly as “We must do something! This is ‘something’. Ergo, let’s do that!” A logical fallacy so common it even has a name.

    Thank you for that, I thought instinctively that is must be a logical fallacy. Thank you for spelling it out.

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  22. Griff (7,517 comments) says:

    Offer a couple of thousand bucks for each beneficiary to get spayed.
    Children born into welfare are disproportionately abused.
    Any decrease in beneficiary’s breeding will have a direct effect on the stats. No compulsion. Not culturally unsafe, Cheaper than supporting more of the fuckers.

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  23. David Garrett (7,110 comments) says:

    Rex: That is very well said…and No, thank God, I have never practised family law, and have no desire to. But I do know of many instances of the kind of manipulative lying you have referred to…. by both those with no connection to me, and a damn sight closer.

    And I also agree with you that “we must do something; this is something, ergo this is a good idea” is totally flawed logic…and yet…Since I have become a father I simply cant read the news reports of the latest piece of child torture…and as cliched as it is, even one such case a year is one too many.

    So what is your answer? Perhaps it’s a variation on that old saw “Let’s use the laws we have now”; as you rightly say, we already have laws which effectively allow removal of vulnerable children at birth from POS like the Kahui “parents”…Is your answer simply for more vigorous use of those laws? And to hell with bullshit bleating from the tangata whenua – and anyway you cut it it’s most often them – about how “interventions” with the whanau will fix it?

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  24. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    Very good comments Lucia and Rex..I agree with whoever said look out for your own children..I knew someone who took in a young welfare girl with of course good intentions..It all came to a very abrupt end when this girl acted very inappropriately with the women’s young son. The girl had obviously been sexually abused but I doubt whether the family had been told this. They had to find out for themselves.

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  25. Wayne91 (143 comments) says:

    REX “Meanwhile Wayne91 suggests:

    We need some urgent drastic action, thats why i support the proposals.

    Which translates perfectly as “We must do something! This is ‘something’. Ergo, let’s do that!” A logical fallacy so common it even has a name.”

    You are right – it shouldn’t be done now – it should have been done years ago. I’m glad its got a name – as does procrastination, analysis, ideology, bullshit, blah blah

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  26. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    @DG:

    Thanks. Yes, more rigorous use of the laws we have, which don’t criminalise the innocent and allow accusation to equal guilt.

    I do not for one moment believe that the ability to deride and accuse someone based on no evidence (or, in fact, worse than that – a finding of no guilt by a jury, no less) is an unintended consequence.

    From “no fly lists” to this odious piece of kangaroo courting, our politicians are slowly weaving a web of measures that can be deployed against anyone they choose, with none of the usual burdens of proof or rights of appeal.

    It’s deliberate, it’s dangerous, and it must be resisted. Bennett is the ultimate useful idiot.

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  27. Nigel Kearney (984 comments) says:

    How about giving us examples of abuse that would not have happened if these laws were in place?

    The Nia Glassie case seems like a poor example because the offenders were not previously accused of child abuse. The Kahui parents were not suspected either so the twins would still be dead under this law change. And the parents have not abused any kid since, to my knowledge, so applying this law in the Kahui case would have achieved nothing.

    This seems like a classic example of the political tactic of taking strong action just in order to be seen to be doing something. In this case it’s even worse because Bennett is the welfare minister so is basically funding child abuse every day, at the same time as claiming to get tough on it.

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