Police note child abuse is in-house

RHONDA MARKBY
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2013

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Timaru police dealt with more than 130 cases of child abuse last year, with all offenders being family members or those closely associated with the family.

"Stranger danger is more of a myth than people think," Timaru CIB head Detective Sergeant Dylan Murray said of the reality of who was harming children in the South Canterbury community.

"Certainly [police] Youth Education have moved away from the old days of talking about stranger danger and it is now more about safety around people they actually know."

The number of allegations were similar to recent years with 56 involving sexual abuse, 60 physical abuse and 18 with matters including serious wilful neglect or children witnessing serious family violence.

The majority of allegations of abuse were made by a family member to either police or to Child Youth and Family, who in turn referred the allegation on. Other allegations came directly from the victims, schools and Timaru Hospital.

"I think people are less tolerant of this happening to their own or happening in the community [than in the past]. If there is any sniff of it people are doing the right thing and alerting someone.

"If you suspect something is happening or know something is happening, it is better to pass the risk by telling ourselves or CYF," Mr Murray said.

CYF and police have worked together over the allegations, leading to both prosecutions and formal warnings. There were also cases where there was insufficient evidence to take any further action.

Regardless of the outcome, CYF worked with all affected parties to ensure the child was in a safe and protected environment both during the investigation, and once it was completed.

While South Canterbury child abuse conviction figures were unavailable for 2012, Mr Murray said there were currently 10 cases before the court. He described some of those charges as being very serious, and included sexual violation, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, indecent assault, and assaulting a child.

"It is quite a lot; it certainly keeps us very busy. Sexual abuse of children and adults is our core business."

Two detectives are assigned full time to dealing with child abuse allegations.

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- South Canterbury

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