Crimes Amendment Bill No 2 - Protection of childrenDate: 10 October 2011 | Category: Family Law
Source: In Brief October 2011
The Crimes Amendment Bill (no. 2) (the 'Bill') was introduced to Parliament by the Minister of Justice on 12 April 2011. Among other issues contained in the Bill, one of the major areas of proposed change relates to the protection of children. The Bill seeks to significantly alter the current legislation as it pertains to child abuse and imposes greater expectations on adults who are in contact with children and vulnerable adults alike.
Duty to Protect
One of the most significant changes contained in the Bill is the imposition of a legal duty on those who live with a child and those who know or ought to know that the child is at risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault. That legal duty requires those people to take reasonable steps to protect the child from that risk. Failure to take such steps will result in an offence that is punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of 10 years. Specifically, a parent or person over the age of 18 may be found liable if he or she is:
- A member of the same household as the victim,
- A person who does not live in the same household but is so closely connected with it that they are regarded as a member of it,
- A staff member of a hospital, institution, or residence where the victim lives.
Another significant provision in the Bill provides that all parents are under the same obligation to protect their children regardless of the parent's age. This means that a parent who is under the age of 18 is still liable to the same extent as a parent over the age of 18. It is hoped that extending such responsibilities to teenage parents will prompt young parents to seek help earlier in situations where they are unable to cope with the pressures of parenthood.
The offence of sexual grooming is also expanded to include instances where an offender is communicating with an undercover police officer while believing them to be a person under the age of 16.
The maximum penalty for cruelty to a child (which includes neglect and ill treatment) has been increased from five years imprisonment to 10 years imprisonment. The scope of the Bill in this regard is expanded to include vulnerable adults as well as children. It places an obligation on parents and caregivers to protect children and vulnerable adults from injury as well as providing necessities that extend above and beyond the necessities of life.
The provisions of the Bill depart from the existing regime by creating a positive obligation on all adults who are living with a child or have substantial contact with a child to act, in cases where it is called for, to prevent harm that might otherwise occur.
Violent deaths of toddlers such as that of Nia Glassie and the Kahui twins are tragic warnings that urgent action is required by all adults in preserving the safety of a vulnerable child. The Bill is an attempt at strengthening the obligation on those who should take action not to turn a blind eye, as the law will no longer do the same.
If you or anyone you know has a duty to protect a child who is at risk as defined by the Crimes Amendment Bill No. 2 we can assist you by providing advice as to the steps you can take to protect that child. This includes reporting the matter to the Police or Child Youth and Family and / or applying for a Protection Order under the Domestic Violence Act 1995 on behalf of that child, or for Parenting Orders if appropriate under the Care of Children Act 2004. Please contact either Vonja Young or Fiona McGeorge of our Family Team if you require assistance or have any queries regarding the protection of a child.
For further info please contact: Vonja Young