News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


CYPFA Reports On James Whakaruru Case

The tragic death of four-year-old James Whakaruru highlights the importance of swiftly notifying CYPFA or the police about any suspected abuse of children, says chief social worker Mike Doolan.

"The only notification we received about James was from police in July 1996 following an assault on James, for which his mother's partner was jailed. We made sure James was safe.

"Then in 1997, we were asked by the Family Court to prepare a report to assist the Court to make a decision on custody matters. The mother assured us she had decided not to live with the partner anymore and our report therefore concluded James would be safe in her care, particularly as there were grandparents around.

"It turned out, with tragic consequences, that the couple did later live together and James was exposed to the partner's violence again," says Mr Doolan.

"In the two years since our last involvement, no-one told us the couple were back living together and, in the absence of another notification, there was no basis for us to investigate further. If a member of James' wider family or anyone else suspected he was in danger or was being abused we should have been notified. We will always respond if we are notified."

Whilst an internal review of CYPFA's involvement with James and his family does disclose some practice issues, it also shows CYPFA never knowingly left James in a dangerous situation.

The review found social workers could have done better in three areas, says Mr Doolan.

"First, when the police first told us about James being beaten in 1996, we could have taken our investigation a bit further. We could have tried to find out more about James' family. James was safe though. He was with his grandmother and she was anxious to keep him safe.

"Second, we could have assessed James' mother's abilities as a parent more thoroughly. While everyone was concentrating on her partner and the abuse he had inflicted on James, no-one looked closely enough at how protective of James his mother would prove to be in the long term.

"Third, the Family Court asked CYPFA to monitor the child's environment no less than once weekly between March 5 1997 and April 8 1997 and this was not done. An explanation for this was given to the Court when our report was presented and the Judge was still able to make a final decision. I am not happy about this failure to comply with a court request. But I really cannot say that this failure to visit over a period of one month in 1997 contributed in any way to the sad death of James two years later."


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman'

The Guardian needed not one, but three reviews to do justice to Fennell's unsettling approach, which indicates exactly how ambiguous and controversial its message really is. More>>

Howard Davis: Jill Trevelyan's Rita Angus

Although Angus has become one of Aotearoa’s best-loved painters, the story of her life remained little known and poorly understood before Jill Trevelyan's acclaimed and revelatory biography, which won the Non Fiction Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2009, and has now been republished by Te Papa press. More>>

Howard Davis: The Back of the Painting

Painting conservators are the forensic pathologists of the art world. While they cannot bring their subjects back to life, they do provide fascinating insights into the precise circumstances of a painting's creation, its material authenticity, and constructive methodology. More>>

Howard Davis: Black Panthers on the Prowl

A passionate and gripping political drama from Shaka King, this is an informative and instructive tale of human frailty that centers around the charismatic Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered at the age of twenty-one during a police raid. More>>

Howard Davis: Controlling the High Ground

Stephen Johnson's raw and angry film not only poses important questions with scrupulous authenticity, but also provides a timely reminder of the genocidal consequences of casual bigotry and xenophobia. More>>

Howard Davis: Dryzabone - Robert Conolly's The Dry

After the terrible devastation caused by last year’s bushfires, which prompted hundreds of Australians to shelter in the ocean to escape incineration and destroyed uncountable amounts of wildlife, The Dry has been released during a totally different kind of dry spell. More>>

Howard Davis: Hit the Road, Jack - Chloé Zhao's Nomadland

Nomadland is perhaps the ultimately 'road' movie as it follows a group of dispossessed and disenfranchised vagabonds who find a form of communal refuge in camp sites and trailer parks after the economic contraction of 2008. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland