July 25th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Moko Rangitoheriri’s killer argues she was driven to violence by the little boy’s bad behaviour, and so she shouldn’t have to spend so long in prison.

Tania Shailer was sentenced to 17 years in prison at Rotorua High Court on June 26 for killing and torturing Moko while he was placed in her care. But her lawyer has appealed, saying the sentence was “manifestly excessive”.

Her partner David Haerewa, who received the same prison term from Justice Sarah Katz, is also expected to appeal his sentence.

Hopefully the sentence will be increased on appeal, not decreased.

17 years for killing Moko

June 28th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The man and woman who pleaded guilty to killing Taupo 3-year-old Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri have been sentenced to 17 years each with a minimum of nine years at the High Court in Rotorua.

Tania Shailer, 26, and David William Haerewa, 43, had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and ill treating a child. They had originally been charged with murder.

Judge Sarah Katz said this was the highest sentence imposed in New Zealand for manslaughter against a child.

Good. The Attorney-General has noted:

Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson today set out the reasons for the Crown’s decision to accept the manslaughter pleas of Tania Shailer and David Haerewa in substitution of murder charges for the killing of Moko Rangitoheriri.

Ms Shailer and Mr Haerewa were today both sentenced to 17 years in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of nine years. Until that sentencing took place, the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General were unable to comment on the specifics of the case, as the sentencing was a matter for the courts.

“The Crown’s decisions in this case, including the decision to accept the manslaughter pleas, were motivated by the need to secure convictions for this horrendous killing and to avoid the significant risk that either of the defendants could escape such a conviction because of evidential issues,” Mr Finlayson said.

“The guilty pleas and admitted facts enabled the Crown to argue for a sentence which reflected the nature of the crimes committed. Without the guilty pleas, the full details of the facts set out in the Statement of Facts may not have otherwise come to light.

“The decision to accept a plea of manslaughter in substitution of a murder charge is never taken lightly. A robust process is followed which ultimately requires the approval of the Solicitor-General.

“The overarching consideration is whether the interests of justice are met in accepting the plea and in particular, whether the charge can adequately reflect the criminal nature of the conduct as well as allow sufficient scope for sentencing.

 “Based on the evidence available for trial, there was a substantial risk that one or both of the defendants would not be convicted of the legal charge of murder or manslaughter.
I guess it may have been a case of a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush. A certainty of conviction for manslaughter vs a probability for murder.

Where was the father?

June 3rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Ewen McQueen writes in The Herald:

The court has reached its verdict. The marchers have gone home. The politicians and media have done their usual hypocritical hand-wringing. But the question remains – where was Moko’s dad?

A father is supposed to be there to protect his children. A father is supposed to be there to help their mother look after the family. A father is supposed to provide for and love his family.

So where was Moko’s dad? We have no idea. We have no idea because the question was never asked. It never is. In all the national breast-beating that happens whenever such a tragedy occurs, the real issue is never addressed. Why are so many children left without the care of a natural father? Why have we allowed a relationship culture to become embedded which accepts as normal the regular dropping in and out of relationships and frequent changing of partners? How is this supposed to build strong and loving families?

There is a wealth of evidence that a stable family with both parents has much much greater outcomes on average for kids.

What we need is the truth. The social science evidence gives us that and it is conclusive. In 2009 the Office of the Commissioner for Children undertook a review on death and serious injury to children. It concluded that of all factors, having a non-biological parent in the home increased the risk by eight to 12 times. A year later they published another report which noted that family breakdown and “frequent changes in household members” was a significant factor contributing to child abuse and neglect.

The New Zealand research findings are mirrored internationally. In Australia research by Deakin University in Melbourne concluded, “Children under 5 living with a non-biological or step-parent are up to 77 times more likely to die from a violence-related injury than those living with their biological families.”

In the US a study by the University of Missouri similarly concluded, “Children residing in households with unrelated adults were nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries than children residing with two biological parents.”

Very hard to argue against that evidence.

Charging the parents

March 23rd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

David and Collet Stephan have a beautiful family. On that, at least, there is little debate. In the many photos they have posted online, the devout couple and their children are blond and brightly smiling and often dressed in matching outfits. Collet is pretty with a graceful posture and almond-shaped eyes. David is tall and handsome with a mane and a beard, like a classical painting of Jesus Christ.

The Canadian Rockies surrounding their home in rural Alberta complete the picturesque family portraits. …

On March 5, the Canadian government opened criminal proceedings against David and Collet. The charge: failing to provide their 19-month-old son, Ezekiel, the necessaries of life.

According to prosecutors, David and Collet stubbornly refused to take their sick son to see a doctor, instead giving him home remedies such as smoothies containing hot pepper, ginger root, horseradish, onion and apple cider vinegar. Even after warnings from a family friend who is a nurse, the anti-vaccine couple took him to a naturopath for echinacea instead of to a doctor for an exam. Echinacea is an herb “used for colds, flu, and other infections, based on the idea that it might stimulate the immune system to more effectively fight infection,” according to the National Institutes of Health. “Study results are mixed” on its usefulness, the NIH says.

It was only when Ezekiel suddenly stopped breathing that they rushed him to a hospital.

By then, it was too late.

Ezekiel died from bacterial meningitis and empyema, two conditions routinely cured with antibiotics, a medical examiner told the court last week, according to the Lethbridge Herald.

If convicted, the parents could spend up to five years in prison.

They failed to protect their child and neglected him. They imposed their beliefs on him, at the expense of his life. They should be prosecuted.

Prison would be a step too far.  They are no risk to the community. But it does need to be made clear that refusing to seek medical treatment for a sick child is child abuse.

How to encourage bad parents to stop having kids?

September 28th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Some families who have come to the attention of authorities may be stopped from having more children by the Government.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley told TVNZ’s Q+A said she expected the panel looking at restructuring Child, Youth and Family would recommend getting faster contraceptive advice to some families.

“We should be offering, you know, tubal ligations, all sorts of things and counselling those families’,” she said the panel would likely say.

Tolley acknowledged it would be a “huge step” for the state to start telling people that they could not have another child, but said it was “a conversation that New Zealanders, perhaps, need to have”.

Some families that had been involved with government agencies needed more contraceptive advice, she said on Q+A. 

“I mean, I know of cases that CYF have taken the sixth and seventh baby from.

“The question I’ve asked is, ‘So what advice now is going into that parent?'”

Tolley did not rule out limiting or preventing some families from having another child, but said she would wait to see what the panel recommended in December. 

Broadly I guess there are four ways you can discourage bad (as in parents who abuse and neglect their kids parents from having further children.

  1. Education and counselling
  2. Positive incentives (pay them not to have more kids or get sterilisied)
  3. Negatives incentives (no further welfare if they have further children
  4. Coercion (forced sterilization, automatic confiscation of further kids)

I don’t support forced sterilization. We simply should not give any Government that power.

There is now provision for a Judge to rule that any further children will be taken into care the moment they’re born. Too early to know if this will be effective.

I’m interested in a combination of two and three. Where a parent has a track record of abuse and neglect, you give them an incentive to get sterilised, and/or also make clear further children doesn’t mean more welfare.

Children in care

September 25th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A review panel is scathing of Child, Youth and Family’s performance, saying the current system is focused on immediate risks and containing costs at the expense of tackling harm and supporting long-term outcomes.

The panel, led by economist Paula Rebstock, has recommended CYF should adopt an “investment approach” to needy children, intervening earlier in partnership with other agencies.

This is sensible, and is working well in ACC and welfare. Ultimately should be extended to most areas of social provision.

It also recommended a new advocacy service for children in state care which would be run by the philanthropic sector.

Also sounds worthwhile.

However, it is highly critical of CYF’s nine youth residences, suggesting that they should be replaced by “smaller, more localised services”.

“Evidence and experience show that the propensity of large-scale institutions to cause harm to vulnerable children generally outweighs the security and safety benefits,” the report says.

“Cold, sterile facilities like some of the CYF residences run the risk of re-traumatising children and young people.

“Security and safety can often be dealt with by smaller, more localised services where a stronger connection to communities and tailored support would also provide a better chance of healing and development.”

Again, seems sensible.

Mrs Tolley said some of the statistics in the report were “horrifying”.

She said by the time children with a care placement who were born in the 12 months to June 1991 had reached the age of 21:

• Almost 90 per cent were on a benefit;
• More than 25 per cent were on a benefit with a child;
• Almost 80 per cent did not have NCEA Level 2;
• More than 30 per cent had a youth justice referral by the age of 18;
• Almost 20 per cent had had a custodial sentence;
• Almost 40 per cent had a community sentence;
• Overall, six out of every 10 children in care are Maori.

“This simply cannot be allowed to continue,” Mrs Tolley said.

Those outcomes are awful, and it is good to see the ambition to lift them.

However we should also be aware there are limits to what the state can do. Many or most of those in state care have been abused, beaten or neglected by their parents. They may have been exposed to alcohol or drugs in the womb, or during their childhood. By the time they get taken away from their parents, they’re already in a pretty crap state. And with the best will in the world, the harm done to them may be very very difficult to reverse.

But we certainly can do better than the status quo.

Passwords a step too far

August 17th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Over the weekend I read the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Register) Bill.

As I blogged when introduced, I’m a supporter of it. In fact I think over time you might widen its eligibility criteria to other serious crimes.

But there is one section of the bill, which goes too far in my view. Child sex offenders are near the lowest of the low, and I’m all for a register to allow authorities to track them. But let’s look at the list of personal information to be reported:

  • Name/s
  • DOB
  • Address/s
  • Identity of children in same residence
  • Nature of work and name and address of employer
  • Membership of any groups with kids in them
  • Details of cars owned or driven
  • Details of tattoos etc
  • Passport details
  • Numbers of landlines or mobile phones

So far so good. Then we turn to the Internet details:

  • details of e-mail addresses used
  • details of online accounts and aliases used or intended to be used

Again no problems. But:

  • details of any ISP used or intended to be used including login details, user name and password


That would then give the state the ability to monitor basically their Internet communications. A government official could login and see every e-mail sent to or from them. And this could be for life.

Everything else is reasonable. But the password is not. It is the Internet equivalent of having the state listen in to every phone call you make – without any warrant. Or open every item in the post to and from you – without a warrant.

If there is reasonable cause for concern, then they can get a warrant to intercept the communications. I’m okay with those on the register having to hand over usernames and login details so they know what accounts to target if there is concern. But including the password in the register of information is a step too far.

A NZ child sex offender register

August 14th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s first register of child sex offenders is to be set-up – with the Government saying currently such people can “disappear into communities”.

Police and the Corrections Department will run the register, which will be established under legislation introduced to Parliament today.

Offenders will need to provide a range of information including fingerprints, photographs, aliases, address, workplace and employer, car registration, computer IP address and passport details.

Umm most computers do not have a fixed IP address.

The Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Register) Bill will track convicted child sex offenders aged 18 or over at the time of committing their offence who are:
• Convicted of a qualifying offence and sentenced to prison.
• Convicted of a qualifying offence and sentenced to a non-custodial sentence, and directed to be registered by the sentencing judge.
• Convicted of an equivalent offence and sentenced overseas, or have been on an overseas register, if they intend to reside in New Zealand

Offenders will be on the register for life, 15 years or eight years, depending on the severity of their crimes.

Sounds very reasonable.

Authorised Police and Corrections staff, and authorised staff from relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development and Housing New Zealand, will be able to share relevant information in the register.

There will not be public access, but in certain cases, such as where there is a threat to a child, information may be released to a third party such as a parent or teacher.

Potentially over time the register might include other offenders?

This is why you have Ministers

July 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


Stuff reports:

A plan to treat vulnerable newborns as “lab rats” by sitting back for two years to see if they were abused has been blocked by the Government.

The Ministry of Social Development proposed to include 60,000 children born this year in an “observational study” to test the accuracy of its new predictive risk modelling tool.

It attempts to predict abuse, welfare dependency and the likelihood of a child’s downward spiral into crime on the path to adulthood so it can better target spending.

The Government gave the go-ahead to develop the model in 2012, as part of the Children’s Action Plan. It had now begun testing it. 

But documents show officials had sought ethical approval for one study which involved risk-rating a group of newborns and not intervening in high-risk cases, to check whether their predictions came true.

A furious Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she could not fathom what her officials were thinking.

She has called a halt to the study.

The minister’s handwritten notes on the documents instructed officials: “not on my watch, these are children not lab rats”.

One of the roles of a Minister is to apply the political filter to stuff from their department. The idea that a Government would sign off on not intervening with at risk children just to test the accuracy of predictions is one which no good Minister would let fly.

Personally I’m surprised it even got to the Minister.

So what was this accident?

July 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Homicide detectives probing the death of baby Ihaka Stokes have interviewed at least 42 people as his aunty claims the death was a “terrible tragic accident”.

Police have spent 11 days investigating the 14-month-old’s death after he was taken to Christchurch Hospital with what they said were multiple blunt force fractures inflicted in a violent attack.

Family and friends farewelled Ihaka at an emotional funeral on Friday.

The following day, Marrisa Hunton, Ihaka’s aunty and the sister of his heavily pregnant mother Mikala Stokes, saidIhaka’s death was an accident.

“This little boy was not murdered he died in a terrible tragic accident,” Hunton wrote on Facebook.

So what was this freak accident that inflicted multiple fractures?

She went on to say the media were “out for a story” and did not care how it was portrayed “as long as it gains attention”.

“The important thing is that the family knows the truth.”

I’d say the important thing would have been keeping Ihaka alive and healthy.

UPDATE: Someone has been arrested for this “accident”. Good.

No Jacinda, this is what dreadful looks like

July 10th, 2015 at 7:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government’s latest report card for the public service shows an increase in the number of children and young people being assaulted – a trend that Labour describes as “dreadful”.

One of National’s 10 targets for the public service was to reduce the number of children being abused by 5 per cent, to approximately 3000 children, before 2017.

An update released this week showed that 3144 children were physically abused in the year to March, compared to 3111 the previous year.

When the target was set three years ago, the rate of physical assaults on young people was increasing and was projected to rise to around 4000 by 2017.

State Services Minister Paula Bennett said this increasing trend had been “successfully flattened”, though she admitted more needed to be done to hit the target.

Labour Party children’s spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said Government’s targets had served to highlight its failure to tackle child abuse.

“Those are dreadful figures, yet police stats tell us the situation could be even worse than that, with the number of violent assaults on children up 3.5 per cent to a record 5397 offences in 2014.”

First of all any level of child abuse is too high, and everyone wants it to trend down. But before we call a 1% increase “dreadful” let’s look at what has happened here over the past decade.

Data for confirmed child abuse cases is a bit hard to find but you have it for 2004 to 2008 on Te Ara, and 2010 to 2014 on CYF.


So from 2003/04 to 2007/08, child abuse cases increased by 93%. There is a year missing in 08/09 and in 09/10 it was 21,025. In the four years since then it has reduced by 6.7%.

So my definition of dreadful is the 93% increase under the last four years of Labour. That is what failure looks like. Not a 1% increase, but a 93% increase.

How do businesses collude with the predators?

April 7th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New, harsher penalties for making, trading or possessing child abuse imagery have been passed into law with unanimous support.

The legislation increased the maximum jail term for possessing, importing or exporting objectionable publications from five years to 10 years.

It clarified that possession included viewing the objectionable material, not just downloading or saving it.

The maximum penalty for supplying, distributing or making an objectionable publication increased from 10 to 14 years’ jail time.

It introduced a new offence of “indecent communication with a young person”, which applied to any communication with a person under 16 years old including text message and online contact.

The bill passed without dissent, but an interesting comment:

Greens also backed the changes, though MP Catherine Delahunty said harsher sentences would not solve the deeply rooted social problems which led to child exploitation.

“We have to ask ourselves in what way do our infrastructures, social structures, and businesses collude with the predators, rather than just saying: “Lock up the predator, throw away the key, block them from the internet, everything will be fine.'”

A serious question to the Green Party. How exactly do businesses collude with child sex offenders?

I hope she has lost the kids

October 10th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Judge Neave said a concerned neighbour called police because she noticed the woman’s infant son playing on the road naked.

The court was told associates of the woman then arrived and found the young boy playing naked in the driveway.

They took him inside and heard screaming coming from the bathroom.

They found the woman’s young daughter with soap in her eyes, clothed and in a bathtub overflowing with cold water, Judge Neave said.

The friends were forced to kick the bedroom door open because the woman, who was hungover, had barricaded herself in, he said.

The mother did not wake up, so the associates clothed the children and took them away from the house, he said.

Police arrived at the house and questioned the woman but she became abusive and refused to discuss where her children were, he said.

A miracle the kids are alive. I hope she does not keep custody, unless she can show remarkable change.

This is the sort of child poverty we should be focusing on – and it is not one that would be fixed by increasing the benefit by $60 a week.

A good step

August 4th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is pushing ahead with a child-sex offender register, which could eventually be expanded to include other sexual offenders.

Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley has confirmed ministers signed off on plans to establish the database with an announcement expected within the next few weeks. The database will not be open to the public.

It will be managed by the police, and only available to officials with security clearance from agencies such as the Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Social Development.

If National is returned to Government at September’s election, Tolley hopes to introduce the register by the end of the year.

That’s a very worthy thing to do.

I would hope that in time, the public would have access to it also, excluding those with name suppression of course.

Hollywood wants DIA child porn filter extended to copyright

July 4th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

3 News reports:

It has been revealed top Hollywood studios asked for access to a controversial government-run internet filter – so they could stop Kiwis accessing pirate and torrent websites.

RadioLIVE reported the Motion Pictures Distributors Association wanted access to the Internal Affairs child pornography filter, so they could block access to copyrighted material.

But they were knocked back by the Government and Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne says that it is partly because internet service providers refused.

“They were not prepared to agree to that extension and in any case it would have shifted the mandate somewhat from DIA’s primary focus on preventing sexual abuse of young children.”

The child pornography filter is a voluntary one.

It is good to see the Government knocked the request back. If I want a filtered Internet, I’d live in China.

When the voluntary DIA filter was introduced, many of us were nervous that one day other groups would try to extend it beyond the narrow remit of child abuse images, and try to have it block all material that different groups want blocked. As it is voluntary, that can’t happen easily – ISPs would stop using it. But beware the day when a political party proposes making it mandatory.

Greens vote against Vulnerable Children Bill

June 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A law change aimed at improving the protection of children at risk of abuse or neglect, including stronger vetting of adults who work with children, has passed into law with broad support in Parliament.

The Vulnerable Children Bill passed its final stage by 105 – 10 votes in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon after only the Green Party and Mana Party’s Hone Harawira voted against it.

They voted against???

The bill is the centrepiece of the Government’s ‘Children’s Action Plan’ – developed after Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s White Paper on Vulnerable Children.

Its measures include changes to the law so that abusive or neglectful parents will have to prove they are safe if they wish to keep any further children they have. In the past, social agencies have had to to prove they were not fit parents to take a child from them.

It also introduces greater screening of those who work with children for government and community agencies, and ban those with serious convictions from working closely with children.

They voted against this? Against screening of those who work with children, against banning convicted offenders working with children?

Green Party MP Jan Logie said Ms Bennett had failed to deal to the main problem of child poverty.

Some on the left think that the solution to every single issue is to tax hard working New Zealanders more, to give to those on welfare. That is their solution to everything. So sad.

Should parents be accountable for fat kids?

June 9th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

As some doctors here for for taxes and bans on certain food and drinks, Cristina Odone has a different solution – hold parents responsible, rather than advertisers.

She writes in The Telegraph:

“What do we hate? The Nanny state!” might be a suitable marching song for conservatives — until, that is, children’s well-being is compromised. When parents abuse their role as their child’s protectors the state is right to intervene. Which is why the couple in Norfolk, arrested for allowing their son’s weight to reach 15 stone, should face court.

The son is aged only 11. To be 95 kgs at 11 years old is horrendous. He’s only five feet tall.

Imagine parents who regularly gave their son heroin; or a bottle of vodka. Anyone observing such behaviour would instinctively call the police to save the child. The same now has to be true of a child whose parents are feeding him too many of the wrong things. We now know that food — junk food, fatty food, sugar, additives  – can prove as damaging to a child’s health as heroin or alcohol. Indeed, sugar is so toxic that experts claim it is as bad as tobacco: it leads not only to obesity, but to diabetes too.

Parents who ignore these facts and ply their children with excess food (or just really bad food) are abusing their children as clearly as those who let them take drugs. In the case of the couple in Norfolk, their son suffers from autism: he is all the more at the mercy of his parents’ care. They defend his weight by claiming that it is down to bad genes. Wrong: it’s down to the parents.

Genes of course play a part. But they don’t get you that large at age 11.

The pressure is on to change Britons’ diet. Sadly, the best way forward is to scare the living daylights out of parents who have been too lazy to monitor their child’s eating. The threat of a prison sentence, and of social services taking the child in care, sound draconian but might prove the only solutions.

There is a point where it probably does become child abuse.

The drunk nine year old

January 9th, 2014 at 7:55 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The man who filmed a drunk young boy at a skate park says he would not have released the video if police had acted hard and fast, and communicated that to him.

Bradley Goudie, 18, uploaded a video online which showed a nine-year-old boy at Fairfield Skate Park in Clarkin Rd on Tuesday afternoon with a can of Cody’s Bourbon and Cola – 7 per cent alcohol.

The boy, who struggles to stand and slurs his speech, says “I’ve been drunk before”. He also says he was given alcohol by his aunt.

Goudie, a professional scooter rider, said he was so shocked by the apparent drunkenness of the boy that he turned his camera on him and exposed what he considered one of the biggest issues in New Zealand – underage drinking.

Actually the proportion of people aged under 18 who drink has been dropping massively in the last few years. However this case is shocking and those who supplied him with the alcohol must be prosecuted and his custodial parent should probably lose custody. There is no way she could not know he is getting drunk.

Alcohol and Drug Assessment and Counselling clinical manager Roger Brooking said authorities needed to take action over the incident.

“The police should be called and that kid should be taken off his parents or whoever’s looking after him and be placed in the care of social welfare.”

He said whoever gave the boy alcohol should face criminal charges.

I agree. Sadly it is probably already too late for the kid. If you are getting drunk and possibly stoned at age nine, then it is an uphill battle.

Child Matters founder Anthea Simcock said a crime had been committed and appropriate action should be taken.

The boy had been returned to his mother, who police said was “extremely distraught” to find her son in such a state.

But the boy’s father, who the Times has chosen not to name, said he wants his son to live with him.

The man had been going through a custody battle with his former partner and hadn’t seen the boy in six months.

He said it was “heart-wrenching” to see the video of his son online yesterday. “What I want to do is get my kids and pick them up.”

Either the mother knew what was happening, or she has picked the wrong people to look after her son.

A rare unanimous vote

September 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Paula Bennett announced:

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was delighted to get unanimous support from Parliament for the Vulnerable Children Bill at first reading.

“This legislation is part of the wider Children’s Action Plan, with more than 30 initiatives to prevent child abuse and improve the lives of our most vulnerable children,” says Mrs Bennett.

“I’ve deliberately kept politics out of this and I’m delighted Opposition parties have found a way to support this work in exactly the same vein.”

This cross-party support is hugely significant for communities and individuals across New Zealand who’ve passionately adopted the Children’s Action Plan.

“It’s absolutely fair that parties have supported this legislation to Select Committee but reserve the right to debate and discuss the detail further before committing to the next step, I welcome that debate.”

“We are making major changes affecting thousands of New Zealanders.”

It is relatively rare for a major Government bill to get unanimous support. Those sort of votes tend to be around minor uncontroversial legislation.

But it is a heartening sign that all parties and MPs supported this law at first reading, as the status quo is manifestly unacceptable. That doesn’t mean every measure in the proposed law is going to end up supported, but I think the initial unanimous vote is a great sign that Parliament is determined to make some changes.

How do you solve this?

September 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff has a story from the Sydney Morning Herald about the killing of six year old Kiesha Weippart by her mother.

It’s a very long story, giving all the background of the family, and the mother especially. Very very sad.

I read the story twice, and tried to think of how you would stop what happened, happening in future, short of a parenting licence.

It is easy to vilify the mother, and she deserves it. But also easy to feel sorry for her, as she has had such a wretched life herself with her mother dead at 10, constant domestic violence, and her father abandoning her.

Laws on child abuse

August 18th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Laws writes in the SST:

In the week that former teacher James Parker was sentenced to preventive detention for his unchecked predations upon young boys in Northland, social development minister Paula Bennett announced tougher measures to combat child abuse.

Those policies that have drawn the most commentary and criticism relate to parents rather than paedophiles. Parents or caregivers who have seriously abused their kids will not automatically be allowed to have any more. And those who are suspected of being serious abusers will be banned from associating with any children, including their own.

In announcing these intended policies, Bennett rightly highlighted New Zealand’s appalling rates of child abuse. They are an enduring stain upon our country and particularly the Maori culture. Maori children are among the most endangered on the planet. In part, it is the ethnicity of the primary offenders and victims that has delayed proper government action. It is considered both uncultural and uncool to highlight Maori child abuse statistics, even though they are blindingly obvious.

Rightly, Bennett’s solution is universal. Stop habitual abusers having any more children and intervene swiftly where serious abuse is suspected, regardless of colour, culture or creed.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, it is two Maori women who are leading the resistance to Bennett’s overdue toughness – associate health minister Tariana Turia and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei. Their argument is that Maori parents will unduly suffer and Turei raises the additional spectre of Aboriginal adoption. In fact, Turei goes further than that. More Maori parents abuse their kids because they are poor, she contends. If we removed “poverty”, she contends, “we’d remove a huge stressor on families that is connected to increased rates of child maltreatment and neglect”.

Yep, if you’re on welfare – or poorly paid – then abusing your kids is a natural response.

Which is bollocks. Abusing your kids is a deeply unnatural and sick response, and most parents on benefits or the minimum wage, don’t abuse their children.

Absolutely. It is beyond unnatural. Most of us feel protective and get distressed when we see any child in distress – ever a total stranger. To allow, or even be responsible, for harming your own child is as unnatural as it gets.

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 child abuse.

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.

The role of Iwi with abused kids

August 15th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Fox at Stuff reports:

The Green Party wants iwi empowered to oversee the placement of Maori children removed from unsafe homes under proposed child-protection laws.

Co-leader Metiria Turei said Maori children were far more likely to be affected by the changes and called the Government’s plan “a condescending colonial approach that New Zealand could do without”.

Calling something a “colonial” approach is a lazy way of saying you disagree with it. How is it a colonial approach? Does it target Maori kids only?

Having said that, I’d love Iwi to take a more prominent role in helping prevent child abuse, and having them involved in placement of kids could be well worth considering.

The Maori Party said yesterday that every effort should be made to ensure Maori children removed from their parents’ care were placed with extended family.

As I understand it, that is the current policy of CYF and the courts. But there is a problem with the status quo policy.

Sometimes an entire extended family is dysfunctional. There have been examples of kids getting abused or neglected multiple times as they rotate through various family members.

Of course it is better for a kid to go to an aunt/uncle or a cousin, than a stranger. But only if they are capable, competent and willing. Not all extended families are.

Turei said yesterday that the Greens wanted extra iwi oversight over new permanent placements for Maori children removed from their parents if they were settled outside of their wider families.

“Given that the Social Development Ministry and population data show Maori kids are three times as likely to be removed from their parents as non-Maori, extra care is needed to ensure tamariki will be genuinely better off in the state’s care,” she said.

As I said, I think that could well be worthwhile. It may depend though on how connected a family is to their Iwi. Many urban Maori do not have strong connections to their Iwi.

Turei repeated criticism that the Government was not addressing poverty in its proposed measures, even though it was a major contributor to child abuse.

People use poverty as an excuse to do nothing. Our rate of child abuse is far higher than many countries with far far worse poverty. To imply that all the Government needs to do is increase the level of welfare in New Zealand and you solve child abuse is simplistic. We actually have one of the most generous welfare states in the world.

Herald on Children’s Action Plan

August 14th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald editorial:

So awful is this country’s record of child abuse that many radical responses have been aired in the past few years. There was, for example, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s suggestion that the courts should have the power to ban child maimers from having more children. And there was a coroner’s view that all children should be monitored compulsorily until they reach 5, including spot checks of their homes. That such flawed ideas garnered a measure of support spoke volumes of the widespread despair over the extent of the problem and the failure of policies to address it. Welcome, therefore, is Ms Bennett’s long-awaited Children’s Action Plan, which, while bound to be controversial, is generally well targeted.

I agree.

Two aspects of the new regime will be particularly contentious: the wide-ranging Child Harm Prevention Orders aimed at people considered to be a risk to children, and a requirement that parents convicted of killing or abusing their children will have to prove they are safe to care for any subsequent children. In the first instance, High Court and District Court judges can impose an order for up to 10 years if it is believed “on the balance of probabilities” that someone poses a threat to a child. It will not be necessary for a person to have been convicted of a violent or sexual crime against children.

I don’t regard the requirement for convicted killers or abusers of children to prove they are safe to be contentious. The eligibility for a CHPO is definitely contentious.

At a first blush, the latter feature appears draconian. But the characteristics of the orders and the wording associated with them are broadly in line with protection orders for domestic violence made by the Family Court and criminal courts. In that context and particularly with the presence of judicial scrutiny, they appear merited.

A key safeguard is that it would be a Judge that decides, not CYF or the Police.

The provision which requires abusive parents to prove to Child, Youth and Family they are no longer a threat tips normal legal practice upside down. Previously, it was up to the state to prove an abusive parent was unsafe. In an ideal world, that would continue to be so. The reversal carries a strong and unfortunate implication that previously unfit parents are beyond rehabilitation, But there will be greater certainty that children will be removed to a safer and nurturing environment, and, as Ms Bennett suggests, their welfare must come first. The death from extreme abuse of 50 children in the past five years shows how the present approach is not working.

I’d be interested in any data on what proportion of parents who get convicted of killing or abusing a child, then have further children with no harm reported?

The child protection law proposals

August 13th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Paula Bennett has announced details of law changes to try and reduce the terrible rate of child abuse we have in this country. Not only is child abuse a tragedy for the kids abused, but almost inevitably those abused have terrible outcomes in terms of health, education, employment and crime – in fact many become child abusers themselves. Breaking the cycle of abuse is incredibly important, and incredibly difficult.

The key details are:

  • New legislated responsibilities for Police, Justice and the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Development
  • Screening and vetting of every person in the Government Children’s Workforce will be introduced
  • People with serious convictions will be permanently restricted from working closely with children
  • Parents who seriously abuse or even kill children will have to prove they are safe to parent again; if they go on to have another child, reversing the current onus of proof
  • Child Harm Prevention Orders to be placed on adults who pose a serious risk to children
  • Courts can curtail and define guardianship rights of birth parents in extreme cases

There is a q+a here.

I welcome the Government taking these bold steps. Just saying “Oh it is all too hard, and all the result of poverty” is a cop out.

The principle of Child Harm Prevention Orders I have no problem with. But I think there is a legitimate debate about whether they should only be available against people who have already been convicted of crimes against children. If the Government wants wider eligibility they would need to have very persuasive data to back up their case. But that is an excellent issue for a select committee to consider.