Abuser's baby seized by state

TONY WALL
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2014

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The state has seized the newborn baby of one of New Zealand's most notorious convicted child abusers - the second time in two years it has removed a newborn from her care.

One right-wing lobby group says Oriwa Kemp, jailed for cruelty to Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie, should be offered money to be sterilised, but a former Women's Refuge head says she has a right to have children and Government agencies have failed her.

Kemp says handing over her daughter just a couple of hours after she was born in North Shore Hospital last week was traumatic and she was being discriminated against because of her past.

Kemp was 18 when she was sentenced to three years and four months imprisonment for cruelty to Nia, 3, who died in 2007.

She gave Nia cold baths, hit her when she cried and was present when the toddler was swung on a clothes line and placed in a clothes dryer.

Kemp was released on parole in mid 2009, just five months after being jailed, a decision that caused outrage at the time. However, she was recalled to prison in 2011 for breaching the terms of her parole. She was pregnant with twins but miscarried while in prison.

Last month Child, Youth and Family was granted a custody order in the Family Court in Morrinsville, where Kemp sometimes resides, for her unborn baby.

CYF staff, accompanied by security guards, arrived at North Shore Hospital last week to take the child.

CYF also took a baby boy from Kemp when he was born in late 2012. Her oldest child, fathered by Michael Curtis, who was convicted of Nia's murder, is also in CYF care.

Those moves came after Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced a database system which would predict which children were most at risk of abuse, even before they were born.

The Sunday Star-Times tracked down Kemp on Auckland's North Shore. She was still showing signs of her pregnancy. It is understood the father of her two most recent children is a former motorcycle gang member in his 60s.

Kemp said she was in tears as she handed over the baby, only a couple of hours after she gave birth.

Asked if they gave any reasons, Kemp said: "Not really, they just kept going on my history. It's discriminating."

She said she felt she could never escape her past, even though she had tried to improve her life and do the parenting courses she had been ordered to undergo.

"I'm doing what I have to, I'm trying. I've done them [courses] over and over again."

She said she had been allowed to visit her two-year-old boy until recently. "Now they've stopped me seeing him."

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She believed she could provide a safe environment for her children.

A Ministry of Social Development spokesperson said the decisions to uplift Kemp's children were taken in their best interests and with the co-operation of the wider family.

"This occurs in very serious situations where it is determined that there are no other options for ensuring the infant's safety."

When it was reported in 2012 that Kemp was due to have a baby, her Facebook page was swamped with abuse and death threats. A juror from her trial also told the media she should be sterilised.

Garth McVicar, of the Sensible Sentencing Trust, said while sterilisation sounded barbaric, Kemp was not taking accountability or responsibility and "realistically, there is no other solution".

She should be offered a "financial incentive" to be sterilised.

Former Women's Refuge chief executive Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who presented submissions to the coroner's inquest into Nia's death, said "behaviours can change over time" and as long as Kemp had improved her parenting skills "she has every right to determine her own future.

If that involves having children, then surely to goodness she should be supported to be a fit and proper parent."

She said CYF needs to ask "why they are not helping someone to come back and make a go of it".

NIA'S SAD STORY

Nia Glassie died in 2007 after weeks of horrific abuse at the hands of family members.

Brothers Michael and Wiremu Curtis were sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

When Nia's mother, Lisa Kuka, was at work they terrorised the toddler by practising wrestling moves on her.

Kuka was sentenced to nine years in jail for manslaughter and failing to protect her from abuse.

Michael Pearson, 21, was sentenced to three years in jail for assault and wilful ill treatment.

William Curtis, 50, the father of Michael and Wiremu, received four years in prison for assaults on Nia. 

- Sunday Star Times

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