29 Jun 2021

Police should investigate Oranga Tamariki 'excessive force' - Children's Commissioner

6:56 pm on 29 June 2021

The Children's Commissioner wants police to investigate an incident at an Oranga Tamariki care facility, in which he says excessive force appears to have been used on young people.

Children's Commissioner, Andrew Becroft

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Newsroom this morning published a video showing children being tackled, restrained and held in a headlock by staff at a facility for those with high needs who cannot live with their family.

The facility was one of Oranga Tamariki's care and protection units, which are secure facilities for those with particular protection needs who cannot live with family.

After it was made public, Children's Minister Kelvin Davis asked officials to get to the bottom of the "unacceptable" behaviour.

Judge Andrew Becroft said on the face of it, the videos showed violent attacks on children, by those who were supposed to be caring for them.

"These children are living in care and protection 'residences' usually because they've experienced traumatic upbringings and there is often nowhere else for them to go. These are not youth justice facilities and children are not there for criminal offending.

Oranga Tamariki's CPP, child protection protocol, states that when a case of potential abuse, neglect or harm may be a criminal offence, the organisation must work with police to investigate.

Judge Becroft said the treatment in the videos highlighted the fundamental problem with care and protection residences, and exemplified the reason why his office had repeatedly called for their closure.

"The behaviour on the video appears to be neither care nor protection; and it should shock every New Zealander to the core. There is a clear need for Oranga Tamariki to active the CPP and trigger an investigation of possible abuse."

"That these kinds of assaults are still happening during the Royal Commission of Abuse in Care shows that abuse didn't stop at the Commission's year 2000 cut off point," he said.

Oranga Tamariki has launched an investigation into the incidents, which it describes as 'unacceptable behaviour'.

In a statement, Sir Wira Gardiner said "we have watched the Newsroom video and we are deeply concerned that excessive force looks to have been used against children and young people in our care.

"This is unacceptable behaviour and we will start an investigation today into the circumstances shown in the video."

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