Bill to protect children from abuse one step closer

Wednesday 14 September 2011, 12:43PM
By Simon Power

Justice Minister Simon Power welcomed the passing last night of the second reading of a bill to protect vulnerable children from abuse and neglect.

The Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) creates a new offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault, with a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.

“New Zealand has a shameful history of child abuse and this bill will make an example of adults who put their interests before those of the vulnerable children around them,” Mr Power said.

“This bill sends a very clear message that it’s no longer okay for people to turn a blind eye.”

Mr Power said a parent or person over 18 may be found liable if they have frequent contact with the victim, and:

  • They are a member of the same household as the victim.
  • Though they do not live in the same household, they are so closely connected with it that they are regarded as a member of it.
  • They are a staff member of a hospital or institution where the victim resides.


On top of that, the bill doubles the maximum penalty for cruelty to a child from five years to 10 years' imprisonment and extends the offence to include vulnerable adults – those in care because of their age, detention, sickness, or mental impairment.

It also extends a legal duty to those parents and caregivers who have a duty to provide the necessaries of life to also take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from injury. Breach of this duty will be punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.

The bill also makes other amendments to the Crimes Act, including:

  • Increasing the maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon from two to three years' imprisonment as part of the Government’s package to respond to concerns about knife crime.
  • Amending the definition of the ‘claim of right’ defence so the defence is available only in circumstances where the defendant believed they have a personal right to the property concerned.
  • Allowing people to be prosecuted if they are caught during a covert police operation targeting sexual grooming.


The Government intends to make further progress on the bill before the house rises for the election.

More information on the bill can be found here.

Previous press releases on the bill can be found here.