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The passing last week of the Crimes Amendment Bill (No 2) creates an offence of failing to take reasonable steps to protect a child or vulnerable adult from the risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault. The offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

This is part of the National-led Government’s plans to better protect our most vulnerable citizens – our children, but it also extends to the elderly – those in care because of their age, sickness, or mental impairment.

As well as the new offence, we have set up dedicated phone and email contacts for teachers to report suspected child abuse directly to Child Youth and Family.

The biggest impact will be to help encourage those in day-to-day contact with endangered children to come forward if they know that serious abuse or neglect is taking place.

Cabinet has agreed on a package of proposals to get the legal aid cost growth curve back under control, while ensuring access to justice for those who need it, Justice Minister Simon Power announced today.

“We cannot continue to ignore the substantial cost pressures the system is facing, particularly at a time when New Zealand is being forced to borrow an average of $300 million a week.”

Legal aid expenditure has grown substantially in the past decade, and in the past three years has increased by 55 per cent, from $111 million in 2006/07 to $172 million in 2009/10.

“That growth is forecast to result in a $402 million gap between forecast and baseline legal aid expenditure over five years.

“Two-thirds of the cost increase stems from the previous government’s decision in 2006 to extend eligibility for legal aid, and in 2008 to increase lawyer remuneration. Read the rest of this entry »

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