Faces of Innocents: Fighting to do better for New Zealand's children video

Tracy Murphy grieves at the unmarked grave site of Anaru Rogers, her step brother who was killed by his biological ...

Tracy Murphy grieves at the unmarked grave site of Anaru Rogers, her step brother who was killed by his biological mother, Sharon Moke, in 1997.

Last year 14 children died at the hands of people charged with caring for them. In 2009, one of New Zealand's worst years, the toll was 17.

Today, Stuff launches the Child Victim Toll to bring into stark relief the unnecessary deaths every year of children from abuse, neglect, maltreatment.

It forms part of the Faces of Innocents investigation, launched in November last year.

The faces of innocents

Select the images or names from the list below for more information about children who have died from neglect, abuse or maltreatment.


On average, nine children are added to the toll each year.

What is the child victim toll? And how can we bring it down?
Anaru Rogers: The tragic loss of little 'Boyboy'
Three decades of experience on the front lines of child protection
The Faces of Innocents project is growing 


The grim tally since 1992 is 210. The average age of these innocent victims was three-and-a-half.

Since the project began, journalists have been working to uncover the stories of every child behind these grim statistics. Sadly, some of their tragic stories remain unknown or unreportable. In some cases, legal restrictions mean their stories will never be told. For others, the loss of their child remains too raw for their families to speak publicly.

But significant progress has been made.

This week, you will see how these efforts have saved the forgotten memorial of a murdered 10-year-old. There will also be the previously untold story of a child killed last year by a man who was allowed back into his home by Child Youth and Family. And we'll show how a man who offered to plead guilty to the manslaughter of a child was subsequently acquitted of murder and walked free.

Fairfax's Child Victim Toll aims to be the measure of New Zealand's progress at addressing child abuse.

Ad Feedback

It is not perfect with the state of statistics concerning child deaths fragmented in the way they are recorded and reported across different agencies. 

Detective Inspector Craig Scott, a police officer with three decades of experience dealing with child protection cases, said agencies could play a part in protecting children "but they're not there 24/7".


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

"Having a child is a responsibility. Parents need to have their children's welfare as the major priority in their life.

"Agency follow-up is a big part of it but whanau and friends are probably a bigger part of it to me, if you've got someone who's struggling."

Deprived parts of the country are overwhelmingly represented in the statistics. This divide is starkly illustrated in the suburbs of Auckland: there was a clear east-west divide south of the city centre between the haves and the have-nots and the suburbs with high levels of social deprivation were dotted with cases of child homicide.

Roughly every second day, a child aged 0-14 is admitted to hospital for injuries arising from assault, neglect, or maltreatment. The most common are head injuries, broken bones, and injuries to the abdomen, lower back, and pelvis.

According to the Child Poverty Monitor report there has been a small but significant fall in admissions: from 168 in 2000 to 145 in 2014.

According to police data, there were 11,616 child protection cases opened during 2014/15. That's 32 per day.

The Ministry of Social Development's expert panel final report, which sets out recommendations for a future operating model for Child, Youth and Family, shows each year about 60,000 children are notified to CYF. 

At any point in time about 4,900 Kiwi kids are in statutory care. Prevalence of maltreatment is likely to be underestimated given both under-reporting and the quality of CYF's data.

Not all suspicious deaths result in a killer being convicted.

Manslaughter charges have a much higher rate of conviction than murder charges. In cases where a murder charge was laid, 66 per cent resulted in a murder conviction. In cases where manslaughter was the highest charge laid, 84 per cent resulted in a conviction.

Of the 27 murder cases which did not result in a murder conviction, 12 of the defendants made a successful insanity plea, seven were found not guilty, four died during the justice process, and three had their charges downgraded to manslaughter.


- The victims most commonly died at the hands of men. Of the 184 cases where the perpetrator was known, 105 were killed by a sole male, 68 by a sole female.

- Mothers and fathers were about equally likely to kill their children: 30 per cent of victims were killed by their mother, 29 per cent by their father. A disproportionate amount, 18 per cent, were killed by a de facto father.

- Nearly half of the victims were Maori, though Maori make up just a quarter of the country's child population.

- The most common causes of death were head injuries followed by asphyxiation which includes intentional suffocation, strangulation, and choking on vomit after a beating.


 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback