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Govt to strengthen Crimes Act to protect children

Hon Simon Power
Minister of Justice

18 December 2009
Media Statement

Govt to strengthen Crimes Act to protect children

The Government is to introduce a bill to strengthen the Crimes Act to deal with violent offending against children, and to modernise the law of assault and injuring, Justice Minister Simon Power said today.

"Late last year I asked the Law Commission to give priority to its review of Part 8 of the Crimes Act – which deals with offences against the person, including assaults, injuring and homicide – and to give particular consideration to whether offences of violence against children needed to be strengthened.

"The commission recommends changes in four key areas, and the Government intends legislating in this important area."

They are:

• Assault, injury, and serious injury: a new matrix of offences that consistently address both culpability and consequence.
• Specific offences: offences with a specific (usually aggravating) feature – eg, assault on a child, setting traps, impeding rescue – are rationalised and updated.
• Offending against children: a new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult, and reform of other offences dealing with offending against children.
• Endangering, negligent injury and culpable homicide: a hierarchy of offences that address the range of outcomes arising from grossly negligent behaviour, whether death, injury, or risk of injury results.

"The new offence of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult will hold accountable household members who fail to notify authorities of a child or vulnerable adult suffering abuse.

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"Legislation will ensure it will no longer be an excuse to say you were not involved in abusing a child – the fact that you lived in the household and knew of abuse makes you involved.

"The commission also recommended repealing the specific assaults of male assaults female and assault on a child. But, at a time when the Government is working to discourage domestic violence, it would be inappropriate to repeal these offences.

"Children are among our most vulnerable members of society – and they deserve special protection. At Christmas – a difficult time for some families – it is timely to remind everyone of this."

The bill will be introduced early next year.

ENDS

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