Faces of Innocents: Police could start paying for child abuse tip-offs

ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

The Faces of Innocents project highlights New Zealand's problem with child abuse, neglect and maltreatment.

What price would you put on information that stops a child from being killed?

We may soon have an answer to that very question, after Police confirmed they are considering offering money for tip-offs to break the wall of silence around child abuse.

"It's not just about abuse it's about neglect. Kids are left home for days with only a packet of Twisties in the pantry, if they're lucky. They are not going to school. It's that sort of information that we're interested in," Superintendent Tim Anderson said.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said it was an indictment on our society that the idea needed to be considered.

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But it could work if police used paid tips as a "door opener" to investigations, he said.

"If it leads to more disclosure of abuse, and it's done with safe measures in place, and it saves a child's life, who can be against it?"

Who killed twins Chris and Cru Kahui? Someone knows - yet they are not telling and no one has ever been convicted over ...
SUPPLIED

Who killed twins Chris and Cru Kahui? Someone knows - yet they are not telling and no one has ever been convicted over the babies' 2006 deaths. Police are exploring the idea money might motivate people who know about child abuse to tell.

Some pockets of our community had an "absolutely warped, twisted and mangled" view of responsibility to children, Becroft said.

"It's sad to us all. Who wants to live in a country where the view out there is to not report abuse?"

Criminal bar association president Noel Sainsbury said he was not against the concept. But he questioned whether police could trust those who would only report abuse in exchange for money.

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"My main thought is I would have some reservations about that – whether you would get 'good' information from people so cynical."

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Sainsbury said police would need to be careful that axe-grinding agendas might motivate some child abuse tip-offs, as sometimes happened with drug-world informants motivated by a desire to take out their competition.

When asked whether the prospect of payment could encourage informants to hold tips to ransom, Anderson said police would not rely solely upon them.

Superintendent Tim Anderson says police are considering paying informants for tipping them off to child abuse if that's ...
MIKE SCOTT/FAIRFAX NZ

Superintendent Tim Anderson says police are considering paying informants for tipping them off to child abuse if that's what it takes.

"Information provided by informants is thoroughly investigated and is not taken at face value."

Police paid $301,772 to informants in the 2014/2015 financial year. Anderson declined to say whether the informants were paid when they offered the information, or when the tip was proven.

He could not say exactly how much money would be paid for abuse tip-offs, but police would have a "matrix" in place to determine the value of the information and pay tipsters accordingly.

Three-year-old Nia Glassie died after suffering abuse.
SUPPLIED

Three-year-old Nia Glassie died after suffering abuse.

Payments for abuse would be made only to "registered informants" who provide credible information. Those Informants would not be trial witnesses, just sources, Anderson said.

A WALL OF SILENCE

Twins Chris and Cru Kahui died a decade ago, yet to this day, no one has been held to account for their deaths.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft says if payment for child-abuse tip-offs could save lives it is worth exploring.
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft says if payment for child-abuse tip-offs could save lives it is worth exploring.

Their father Chris Kahui was tried and found not guilty using the defence that the babies' mother, Macsyna King, was responsible.

A 2012 coroner's inquiry found their fatal head injuries were inflicted in their father's care.

But police declined to charge Kahui again after a review, saying the case would remain open.

Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie's torture included being spun around on a washing line and tumbled in a clothes dryer before she died in 2007.

Her mother Lisa Kuka and four men were jailed over her death.

It later emerged that neighbours who heard or saw Nia's suffering did not report it.

Asked if he thought having to pay some people for tips was a bleak prospect, Anderson said: "We can see that from being out in the streets over the years that people haven't been [reporting these crimes]."

HOW TO REPORT ABUSE

If you have concerns about the safety of a child, call police on 111 or Child, Youth and Family on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459) for advice.

Anonymous tips can be passed to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

 - Stuff

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