13 Apr 2011

Child protection legislation 'won't stop abuse'

5:41 pm on 13 April 2011

A parenting trust says new legislation that creating a new offence for failing to protect a child will not stop child abuse.

The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2), which has been introduced to Parliament, will broaden the range of people who can be implicated in child abuse cases.

It will apply not only to parents, but also to people who are close to the child but do not live in the same home.

People with a close connection will also have to protect a child from the risk of death, harm or sexual assault.

Those convicted of turning a blind eye could be jailed for 10 years.

Parenting New Zealand director Mike Styles says introducing another law will not make the problem go away, and while the legislation is a step in the right direction, it is changes in society that are needed.

Justice Minister Simon Power says the legislation closes worrying gaps and that those who stand by and do nothing will be held accountable.

But human rights lawyer Michael Bott warns the legislation could be socially destructive if it becomes law.

Mr Bott says extended family, neighbours and medical workers could all be charged and neighbours fearing prosecution could report cases where there is nothing wrong.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says the ideas behind the legislation are is good, but if the bill is passed, it could cause more problems than it solves.

"How do you define whether an adult knew and should have had a responsibility to do something and therefore is criminally liable if they don't? The net could be extended on that definition to CYFS workers."

Ms Turei says the Green Party largely supports the new legislation, but will assess it during the select committee process.

Children's Commissioner John Angus says he supports the legislation and believes it has been well thought through.

Mr Angus says it is good that it sends a signal that adults have a collective responsibility and backs this up with an offence.