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Child Abuse Policy Must be Subject to Democratic Process

Child Abuse Policy Must be Subject to Democratic Process

“Minister Paula Bennett proposal for a wide reaching policy aimed at suspect child abusers, deserves the fullest consideration possible”, says Kim Workman, Spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment.

He was commenting on today’s announcement that wide-ranging measures, including restraining orders, will soon be in use to keep suspected child abusers away from children for up to 10 years.

“While we need to be prepared to take whatever action is effective to stem child abuse, legislative measures of the kind proposed, can often have unintended consequences. For example, we already know that family members will often not report suspected child abuse, if it means that the perpetrator is likely to be separated from the family for a long period of time. They will however, insist that the perpetrator undergo a sex offender’s treatment programme as an option to being reported to the Police or CYPS. Non-mandated approaches are often more successful in the long term.”

“We need to see a comprehensive public consultation process around these measures. That would include the provision of advice from a panel of experts, the opportunity for public submissions to the appropriate Select Committee, not only in regard to the initial legislation, but on any subsequent amendments. We also need to see a report from the Attorney General under Section 7 of the Bill of Rights Act, on whether the proposed legislation breaches the Bill of Rights, or any international covenants to which New Zealand is a signatory.”

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“In this case, the process may be just as important as the outcome. Over the last three years, government has introduced eight Acts of Parliament which are in breach of the Bill of Rights. Six of the eight have been criminal justice legislation directed at offenders and prisoners. In the last three cases, the Attorney General did not report to Parliament on the breaches, as he is required to do.”

“What New Zealand doesn’t need right now, is one more piece of legislation that is passed in contempt of democratic principles.”


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