Part 3 – The Right To Silence.
As a parent, a caregiver, a grandparent or an extended family member, it is our responsibility to protect, love, nurture, respect, provide and ensure our children are safe. A child should always feel safe and be safe in their own home. In New Zealand we have one of the highest rates of Family Harm (previously known as Domestic Violence) in the developed world. The devastating reality of Family Harm violence is 80% of children are present during Family Harm Incidents. Our innocent children are witnessing the most horrific forms of violence and they are suffering the most unforgivable forms of violence.
The New Zealand Police have stated “For 1 in 5 child abuse cases, family and friends were aware of the violence but did not report it”. It is our responsibility as adults to speak up. We must be the voice for those who cannot speak.
We have spoken about the devastating case of the double murder of two innocent babies. Twenty-four adults were interviewed during the criminal investigation into the two boys tragic deaths. The Right to Silence prevented justice for these precious vulnerable babies. The parents, the family, the extended family have all moved on with their lives. Not one person who had the opportunity to speak up in honour of these little boys short lives did. Like cowards they all hid behind the Right to Silence.
We have spoken about the recent case of a young four-year old boy from Flaxmere who was beaten so violently he will suffer life-long disabilities and health issues. The Police are continuing to find those responsible for this vicious attack but are being stonewalled. Those responsible for this heinous attack are hiding behind the Right to Silence.
The Right to Silence allows a suspect in a criminal investigation to refuse to answer questions put to him or her by a law enforcement officer, incriminating or not.
The Right to Silence means a person charged with an offence cannot be compelled to say anything. the presumption of innocence.
The Right to Silence means a defendant cannot be compelled to be a witness by the prosecution in any criminal trial.
How are we ever going to change our shameful, shocking rates of child homicide and child abuse if the perpetrators and defendants continue to hide behind a law that allows them to remain silent?
Every child who has been murdered, assaulted, neglected, violated, raped and tortured did not have a choice. Their rights were stolen the moment an adult made the choice to intentionally harm an innocent child. A child does not have a voice, an adult does.
We cannot allow this to continue. When the little boy from Flaxmere was harmed the public were horrified. Vocally we heard how New Zealanders were frustrated and angry. Justice Minister Andrew Little was interviewed by Sean Plunket on the radio show Magic Talk. Andrew Little was more concerned about innocent people being convicted rather than standing up against those who harm innocent and vulnerable children. You can listen to the interview below. Sean Plunket also created a petition – Abolish the right to silence in child abuse cases in New Zealand.
Andrew Little believed addressing the Right to Silence was just an emotional reaction to the serious assault the little boy in Flaxmere endured, but we all know child abuse cases just like this have been happening for years! The Sensible Sentencing Trust have been advocating for years to have this law changed – in 2009 after Joshua Woodcock who was found guilty of the manslaughter of his baby daughter and again in 2016 when little three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri was brutally beaten to death. In March of this year SST put a further petition in to remove the Right to Silence in the hope of protecting our most innocent and vulnerable victims.
If the Right to Silence was abolished, it would not incriminate innocent people as the Justice Minister claims. He does not believe it would assist in having people come forward.
What if removing the Right to Silence meant perpetrators of all forms of child abuse could no longer hide behind their cowardly silence? Simply put it would mean that those withholding information will legally be obliged to speak up as part of a criminal investigation and prevent the defendant from withholding information during a criminal trial.
Our innocent children are also our most vulnerable victims. As adults it is our responsibility to speak up and be their voice. As soon as a perpetrator harms a child, their Rights to Silence must be revoked!
– Karrin Coates
Waikato Victim Advisor of SSGT
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