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Govt Signals Extensive Law Changes To Deal With Child Abuse

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Simon Power
Simon Power

Wellington, Dec 13 NZPA - The Government is promising extensive law changes to deal with child abuse and it has the support of opposition parties in Parliament.

Sitting under urgency, Parliament today passed a new sentencing law which Justice Minister Simon Power said was just the first step.

"Other criminal justice legislation and initiatives in other portfolios will further address the mistreatment of children and the dysfunction of families," he said.

"This new law will see the perpetrators of abuse appropriately punished and go some way to protecting our children, but we can and must do more."

The Sentencing (Offences Against Children) Amendment Bill passed all its stages unanimously, although Labour and the Greens said they did not think it would make any real difference because most of its provisions already existed.

It sets out a list of aggravating factors, such as the defencelessness of the victim, which will have to be considered when sentences are handed down on child abusers.

Mr Power said it encouraged tougher sentences.

"It denounces such conduct, as does this government and this entire Parliament," he said.

"Children do not choose their parents or caregivers and for the first years of their lives are utterly reliant on their care.

"This bill puts that trust to the forefront by requiring the court to take the magnitude of the breach of trust into account when sentencing."

Maximum sentences for crimes against children will be covered in a second bill to be introduced early next year.

Labour leader Phil Goff said all MPs were appalled by the ongoing tragedy of child abuse and neglect.

Children had the right to grow up in a secure and loving family; instead, an average nine children a year had died at the hands of their caregivers or their parents during the last 20 years.

"That is something that all of us, as New Zealanders, are deeply ashamed of," Mr Goff said.

Labour's deputy leader, Annette King, said Parliament was in agreement around the broad issues of addressing child abuse.

"I look forward to the other legislation. We may not agree with it but we look forward to debating it and sending it to a select committee," she said.

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