The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) which aims to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect passed its second reading on Tuesday.
It 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, with a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
Justice Minister Simon Power said:
“New Zealand has a shameful history of child abuse and this bill will make an example of adults who put their interests before those of the vulnerable children around them,” Mr Power said.
“This bill sends a very clear message that it’s no longer okay for people to turn a blind eye.”
Mr Power said a parent or person over 18 may be found liable if they have frequent contact with the victim, and:
- They are a member of the same household as the victim.
- Though they do not live in the same household, they are so closely connected with it that they are regarded as a member of it.
- They are a staff member of a hospital or institution where the victim resides.
On top of that, the bill doubles the maximum penalty for cruelty to a child from five years to 10 years’ imprisonment and extends the offence to include vulnerable adults – those in care because of their age, detention, sickness, or mental impairment.
We do have a shameful record of abuse and neglect and that makes the case of the comedian whose name is suppressed who was discharged without conviction after pleading guilty even more puzzling.
If I understand this correctly, had this bill been enacted, the mother of the child involved who laid the complaint would have committed an offense had she stayed silent.
If an adult who doesn’t act when they know a chid is being abused or neglected is wrong, how can a judge say the consequences of a conviction for someone who admits offending would outweigh the gravity of the offence?