Reminder of NZ’s atrocious child abuse statistics

Southern Thompson case a reminder of NZ’s atrocious child abuse statistics

National child abuse advocacy group – Child Matters – says yesterday’s name suppression lift for Southern Thompson, who brutely abused her daughter, leading to her death, is a timely reminder for the need for improved child monitoring in New Zealand.

Thompson was previously jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years on charges of murder, ill-treatment of a child, injuring her with intent and failing to seek medical care.

Yesterday she gave formal notice to the Court of Appeal that she was abandoning her appeal, meaning her name suppression expired.

Her daughter, Comfort Jay Thompson-Pene, was killed in 2018 and an autopsy concluded she died as the result of head injuries due to blunt force trauma. Comfort was a victim of prolonged abuse.

Ex-Police detective, lawyer and now CEO of Child Matters, Jane Searle, says the details of Comfort’s case are horrific and serve as a confronting reminder about New Zealand’s appalling child abuse statistics and lack of cohesive monitoring for New Zealand’s tamariki.

“Unfortunately this type of abuse is happening every day around the country and we don’t hear about this until another child dies in tragic circumstances and that story hits the news headlines,” she says. “We need a system that monitors our children better from the time they are born. In the case of Comfort, she did not have a chance as there was no one taking care of her interests and meeting her needs.”

Ms Searle says that the proposed changes to the Children’s Commissioner, through the Oversight of Oranga Tamariki Bill, go completely against the need to improve New Zealand’s system to better look after New Zealand’s most vulnerable children.

“If anything, positions like the Child’s Commissioner need to be better funded and supported, not effectively disestablished and downgraded,” she says.

“Many politicians seem to be out of touch with the realities of what is happening in our country. They are pushing ahead with a Bill that essentially dismantles the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, against huge opposition from community and frontline organisations.

“This sends a tragic message that the Government is willing to ignore the voice of frontline workers to achieve their own agenda,” she says.

Ms Searle believes the reversal of New Zealand’s child abuse statistics require three key elements: the vigilance of local communities; a timely response from Government agencies; and the effective and appropriate resourcing of community specialist services.

She says that should include the introduction of mandatory child protection training for professionals or volunteers who work with children and young people.

On average, one child dies every five weeks at the hands of someone else in New Zealand.

Child Matters is an independent child abuse advocacy and training provider and New Zealand’s only national charitable trust dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.