Time to end the right to silence for child abusers

Mon, 17 Feb, 2020

Sign Beth's petition here.

“ACT would change the law to end the so-called right to silence for child abusers”, says ACT’s Deputy Leader Beth Houlbrooke. 

“The abuse of a four-year-old boy in Flaxmere is completely abhorrent and it’s made worse by the fact that no one from his family will say what happened to him.

“Under the current law, people with information about the case can’t be compelled to talk. This is important because the doctors would be better able to treat the child if they knew what had happened.

“Police already have some tools to deal with such cases, but they need a new one.

“If I’m elected later this year, I will enter a bill into the members’ ballot that would create a new offence of failing to cooperate with Police investigating a case of child abuse.

“The offence will apply when a child has sustained serious non-accidental injuries and Police have reasonable grounds to believe that a person has knowledge about the child’s injuries. If a person fails to answer reasonable questions from Police, they can be prosecuted. This law would allow Police to question people and expect answers as they seek to find out what happened to an abused child.

“There are good reasons for the right to silence. Agents of the government should not be able to force you into a situation of entrapment. ACT stands strongly for the rule of law because it is the best protection of citizens’ rights against the government.

“However, there are exceptions to this rule in other parts of the law. For example, Police officers conducting breath tests, fisheries officers, customs officers and even liquidators have the power to require information. That must extend to cases of child abuse.

“If Police are investigating a child with serious injuries and they have reason to believe that the injuries were caused by deliberate violence, they have the right to question and demand answers. If a person fails to cooperate with Police, they face the same penalties that people can face for failing to provide information to other agents of the government – up to two years’ imprisonment.

“Parents and families should not be able to form a cone of silence, refuse to answer questions, and protect child abusers. That situation must end. Police must be given proper tools to investigate child abuse. Our children deserve better.”