Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nia Glassie case - another mindless knee-jerk reaction

Today's Herald reported
Abuse sentences to be reviewed "Justice Minister elect Simon Power says the new National government will consider toughening up sentences on child abusers in its first 100 days.

His comments follow guilty verdicts in the case of Nia Glassie, the Rotorua toddler whose three years of life ended in months of torment and her brutal slaying."

The facts of the case are that the existing laws were not applied. Neighbours stood by pretending they didn't see the abuse. I don't know if Nia Glassie was seen by medical services before her fatal injury, but if she was they also stood silent. In most of the recent cases of child abuse leading to horrific injuries or death to young children, those who had the power to step in to save the child chose to stand back.

There seems to be an on-going tendency for politicians to call for, or promise stiffer sentences, when there is no evidence that there is any real need for them. To the contrary, it seems that the existing law is sufficient, just not applied. Presumably they do this because it gives them the opportunity to be doing something, even if that something is completely futile.

We need a change to society's attitude, we need people to come forward and bring these cases to the attention of the authorities and we need the authorities to act. Until that happens, it doesn't matter how severe the penalties are, if the law that is set up to protect children isn't being applied, it doesn't matter how severe the penalty, that law is a waste of space on the statute books and a shame on the people of Aotearoa / New Zealand.

Of course, we need our elected representatives to earn their salaries and address the actual problems, not just make empty noises that will not make an iota of difference when it comes to protecting the next Nia Glassie.

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