Right to remain silent won't change - Collins
Wed, 25 Jul 2012 6:06p.m.
By Tom McRae
The Justice Minister today ruled out changing the law around a person's right to remain silent.
Debate had been raised about whether a defendant should have to give evidence after the release of the coroner’s findings into the death of the Kahui twins.
Throughout his trial their father Chris Kahui had the right to keep quiet, but Starship paediatrician Dr Patrick Kelly says this should change.
“Often the only person present when the child was abused was the person who caused those injuries, so there are lots of difficulties the court has to cross,” says Dr Kelly.
“The question is whether the rules of evidence that were designed for adults and people who can talk aren't always entirely appropriate in this particular situation.”
But Justice Minister Judith Collins today confirmed the law will stand.
“It can be extremely infuriating for people that we have the right to maintain silent, but our justice system has to be greater than a case. Unfortunately in this case people don't always understand it."
Between seven and 10 children die every year of abuse. Nicola Atwool, principal advisor to the Children's Commission, today told TV3's Firstline it is possible to identify children who are at a greater risk.
“If we can get alongside them then we can work to improve the situation before anything goes badly wrong, and the families at that stage are more likely to engage because it's not an authority figure coming in with enormous power,” says Ms Atwool.
The coroner called for child protection teams to identify at-risk children and intervene, but Ms Atwool says it is a case of balancing a child’s safety against the parents’ privacy.
“The bottom line is parents can speak, infants can't, and this is a highly subjective area. People have very different views on what works and what's the best answer and in my experience the child becomes invisible in all that,” she says.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the rights of parents are also an important consideration.
“I think we do look at the rights of parents when we have children that need our protection and our help,” she says.
Ms Bennett says the Government will address all the recommendations made in the coroner's report in its white paper, which outlines its plans to deal with vulnerable children.
The report is due to be released next month.
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