Agency knew of carer's sex crime

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 14:07 28/09/2012

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Two Palmerston North children were left in the care of a convicted child sex offender for more than a year before Child, Youth and Family responded to their mother's pleas to intervene.

The mother alerted CYF in June last year when she discovered two of her three children were being cared for by their paternal grandfather, who is a convicted child sex offender.

The man served seven years in prison from 2002 for historical sex offences, including rape.

His victims were his two stepdaughters, one of whom was aged only 9 when the offending began.

CYF intervened last month, and has admitted it should have acted sooner.

The woman said she repeatedly told CYF workers her children were being left in their grandfather's care while her former partner, with whom she has a shared custody arrangement, worked night shifts.

The children were not in CYF care, but the agency had been working with the family since March.

CYF operations general manager Marama Edwards said the woman raised concerns with the agency about the grandfather's past in June, 2011 and January this year. "In raising this she also stated, on more than one occasion, that she didn't feel this person's history was an issue."

A Palmerston North Maori Women's Refuge staff member has confirmed the refuge had been advocating on behalf of the woman since February.

"We have looked into the circumstances of this case and, at the time, we should have completed a more thorough assessment of the children's care arrangements," Ms Edwards said.

"A full safety plan is now in place."

The woman at the centre of the case said she felt powerless to act on her own.

"I'm not waiting until my children get hurt," the woman said. "I'm not going to wait until they get hurt for [CYF] to do something. Because that is what happens in New Zealand."

She said her experience had shattered her confidence in systems she had trusted.

"That's why New Zealand has a high rate of child abuse, because it is like this," she said.

"It has taken me going to the media to get them to do their job properly."

She and the man cannot be named as that could lead to the victims being identified.

The serious sexual offending spanned eight years from 1973 to 1982.

He maintained a not-guilty stance, court documents show.

But in 2002 in the Palmerston North District Court he was found guilty on nine counts, including rape of a minor, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Parole Board records released to the Standard show the offender served a further 10 weeks in prison in 2009 after he breached his release conditions, which included an order to have no contact with his victims or with minors aged 16 and under.

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"Our primary concern is always the safety and wellbeing of the children involved and this case is no exception," Ms Edwards said.

"While this mother has chosen to talk publicly about her family, we must respect the privacy of her former partner and her children in talking about their case."

Ms Edwards said CYF's role to date had been to help the family with a custody dispute.

In August, a plan was put in place to ensure the children's safety.

The plan had included talking with the children involved, along with other agencies and professionals, such as teachers, Ms Edwards said.

- Manawatu Standard

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