Right To Silence Rules Hiding Abusers, Call For Review

Family First NZ is repeating its call for a review of ‘right to silence’ laws which is effectively hindering investigations into child abuse. The call comes following the case of the Flaxmere four-year-old child who was seriously injured in a beating two weeks ago.

Family First has previously made this plea as a result of other cases, including the Coroner’s report into the death of 7-month-old Staranise Waru from Christchurch, the deaths of the Kahui twins, and the 2018 case of a four-month-old baby girl in Auckland.

In the past, police have regularly complained about how families refusing to speak up prevented bringing child abusers, often within the family itself, to justice.

The right of the parents and caregivers to refuse to answer questions during a police investigation meant that the truth surrounding horrific child abuse cases such as Staranise Waru, the Kahui twins, and now the Flaxmere case are effectively withheld.

Child abusers are able to hide behind their right to silence – and children are the ultimate victims.

Parents, caregivers, relatives and those in contact with a victim of serious child abuse should be held accountable until they fully disclose their involvement and demonstrate their innocence.

We now have victims of child abuse screaming for justice and nobody held to account.”

In 2011, the country’s leading authority on child protection questioned the right to silence for defendants in some child-abuse cases. Starship hospital’s director of child protection, Dr Patrick Kelly, told the inquest into the death of the Kahui twins that he was disappointed proposed legislation from the then-National Government did not include some limitations on the right to silence.

The rights of victims to justice and the urgent need for offenders to be held accountable far outweighs the right to silence and other privileges that families may seek to use to mask their guilt or involvement.

The laws should be changed to reflect this priority.

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