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Bill to protect children receives unanimous support

Hon Simon Power
Minister of Justice
18 August 2011

Bill to protect children receives unanimous support

Justice Minister Simon Power today welcomed the unanimous report of the Social Services Select Committee in support of a bill to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.

The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) was reported back to Parliament today with only minor technical amendments, after the committee considered 39 written and 10 oral submissions.

The bill:

• Creates a new offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault. Failure to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult, knowing they were at risk, will result in charges with a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

A parent or person over 18 may be found liable if they have frequent contact with the victim, and:

o They are a member of the same household as the victim.
o They do not live in the same household but are so closely connected with it that they are regarded as a member of it.
o They are a staff member of a hospital, institution, or residence where the victim lives.

• Doubles the maximum penalty for cruelty to a child from five years to 10 years' imprisonment. This offence, which deals with ill-treatment and neglect, has also been extended to include vulnerable adults (this relates to those who are in care because of their age, detention, sickness, or mental impairment).

• Extends a legal duty on parents and caregivers, who currently have a duty to provide the necessaries of life, to also take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from injury. Breach of this duty will be punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.

“New Zealand has an appalling rate of child abuse and this bill sends a very clear message that it’s not okay for people to stand by and do nothing,” Mr Power said.

“Children are among the most vulnerable members of society, and as such they deserve special protection. And at the very least they deserve those closest to them to put their wellbeing and safety first.

“There are no easy solutions to New Zealand’s child abuse problem but this bill will ensure that people who turn a blind eye to abuse are made an example of.”

A number of other measures to tackle child abuse are canvassed in the Government’s Green Paper on Vulnerable Children.

The bill also:

• Increases the maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon from two to three years' imprisonment as part of the Government’s package to respond to concerns about knife crime.
• Amends the definition of the ‘claim of right’ defence so the defence is available only in circumstances where the defendant believed they have a personal right to the property concerned.
• Allows people to be prosecuted if they are caught during a covert police operation targeting sexual grooming.

The Government intends to make further progress on the bill before the house rises for the election.

The select committee report can be found here.

More information on the bill can be found here.


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