Protecting the vulnerable

A bill to strengthen the Crimes Act to deal with violent offending against children, and to modernise the law of assault and injuring, is a welcome move from Justice Minister Simon Power.

The four areas  the bill will deal with 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.

“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.

Sometimes the people who watch and do nothing are victims of violence and abuse themselves.

But to do nothing when a child or vulnerable adult is being abused is to be complicit in the act.

“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.

I understand the thinking behind the recommendation. Violence isn’t the sole preserve of men but repealing these acts when there is such a need to counter domestic violence would send mixed messages.

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