Welcome to this post from New Laws. As the honeymoon period for the new government comes to an end we can expect more legislative content and therefore, increased commentary on new laws and amendments to New Zealand Laws generally.
On the 19th of March Minister of Justice the Hon Judith Collins announced an amendment to The Crimes Act which makes it an offence to stay silent if you have actual knowledge that a child or vulnerable adult is in any way at risk of death, sexual assault or grievous bodily harm.
The Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) 2011 was passed into law in September of last year but this provision takes effect from 19 March 2012. Where violent and sexual offences are concerned the amendment strengthens the Crimes Act.
New Laws understands that the rationale behind the legislation is that children are seen as the most vulnerable members of society and therefore deserving of special protections.
The Minister had this to say in announcing the legislative changes.
“It is no longer acceptable for a person, such as a family member, to claim they were not involved in the abuse of a child when they knew a child was at risk.
“The fact that a person lived in a household and knew of abuse makes them involved,” Ms Collins says.
To show how seriously the matter is seen, henceforth, if one fails to speak up and take all reasonable steps to protect the rights of a child or vulnerable adult, the result might be charges which if proven could hold a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.
New Laws understands that in the wake of a spate of knife crime in recent years this area of law also comes in for amendment. The ‘claim of right’ defence will henceforth be limited to situations where a defendant believes they have a personal or possessory right to the property in question. Exactly how that is interpreted will be interesting. Also in direct response to concerns over the incidence of knife crime, the maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon is increased from 2 to 3 years which will hardly have offenders shaking in their boots.
A conviction for the offence of cruelty to a child or vulnerable adult will now carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison which is double the former maximum of 5 years.
The insidious offence of sexual grooming of minors will now provide for offences which are discovered via police officers posing as a young person.