Family First NZ is repeating its call for a review of ‘right to silence’ laws which is effectively hindering investigations into child abuse. Family First has previously made this plea as a result of the Coroner’s report into the death of 7-month-old Staranise Waru from Christchurch in 2006, the deaths of the Kahui twins also in 2006, a four-month-old baby girl in Auckland in 2018, the Flaxmere four-year-old child who was seriously injured in a beating in January 2020, Manurewa boy Poseidyn Hemopo Pickering in September 2020, and the ongoing unsolved homicide of Clover Park baby Sofia Taueki-Jackson highlighted in the media today, who died in May 2020.
“The right of the parents and caregivers to refuse to answer questions during a police investigation means that the truth surrounding the deaths of our most vulnerable children and babies can be effectively withheld,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“Child abusers are able to hide behind their right to silence – and children are the ultimate victims. The rights of the child to justice is the big loser.”
“The solution seems simple. 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 to the police investigation.”
“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.”