Police fail abuse victim twice

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2014

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A woman has attacked police for incompetence after they failed to turn up in court when her child-abusing ex-husband got his second discharge without conviction.

The Sunday Star-Times reported last month that police had to apologise to the woman after her husband - a Tauranga professional - was discharged and awarded name suppression after senior officers watered down the facts against him.

Expecting better service after the man pleaded guilty to further charges of breaching his protection order, the woman was horrified when a police prosecutor failed to show up for the man's hearing in the Auckland District Court on Thursday.

"It beggars belief," she said, "I don't know whether we don't matter or what."

Unusually, the case went ahead without a prosecutor and the woman was forced to hear her ex-husband get a second discharge without conviction and permanent name suppression without anyone present to represent her side.

Police made a second apology to the woman on Friday saying their no-show came down to an "administrative error".

Police Prosecutions national manager Inspector Mike Johnson said police "strive to do our best for victims".

"[We] are very sorry that due to this administrative error this did not happen on this occasion."

It was cold comfort for the woman who said she and her son had lost faith in the police and the criminal justice system.

Her ex-husband had been discharged without conviction despite admitted slamming the 11-year-old boy's head twice on to the concrete floor of their garage, dragging him up some stairs, banging him against the walls, dragging him across the lounge floor and hitting his head on to the kitchen table.

The woman said her son had been living with a brain injury since the attack. "He's improved but his mental health hasn't. He only went to school half the time last year. He has headaches, nausea."

The case has enraged the Sensible Sentencing Trust which said the police apology was "weak at best". National spokeswoman Ruth Money said it was "a series of errors by the police which has seen a violent child abuser set free with no consequences for his abusive actions twice".

"It really is quite unbelievable how the police and so called ‘justice' system has let this one family down, let alone the wider public. Is it any wonder we have the tragic child abuse statistics we have when this is what happens? The system is enabling the abuse and allowing it to continue."

"They have further abused this victim by mis-handling the breach of the protection order - let's not forget he's pleaded guilty here so why the discharge and name suppression? Injustice like this makes the public wonder."

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Last month the police apologised for their handling of the case. In a letter to the boy's mother, a senior officer admitted police watered down the summary of facts, failed to keep her and her son informed of the fact they were reducing the charge against the offender - the boy's father - and failed to return the woman's phone calls.

"We pride ourselves on being victim-focused and in your case we fell short of what we expect of our staff and of our processes," wrote Detective Inspector Mark Loper of Bay of Plenty police.

At the time Loper said "police take all assaults on children extremely seriously and this was no exception".

- Sunday Star Times

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